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Oil Inventories Drop to Two-Month Low, Survey Shows

U.S. oil stockpiles probably dropped last week to the lowest level in almost two months as refineries kept their operating rates at the highest level since August, a Bloomberg survey showed.

Crude supplies fell 2.5 million barrels, or 0.7 percent, in the week ended Dec. 7 to 369.3 million, according to the median of estimate of 11 analysts surveyed before an Energy Department report tomorrow. That would be the least since Oct. 12. Ten respondents forecast a decrease and one projected a gain.

Refinery rates stayed at 90.6 percent, the highest level since Aug. 24, the survey showed. Oil stockpiles fell 2.36 million barrels in the week ended Nov. 30, down for a third week, the Energy Department reported last week.

“Crude supplies are expected to indicate a draw mainly as a result of additional strength in refinery demand,” said Jim Ritterbusch, president of Ritterbusch & Associates, a Galena, Illinois-based consulting company, in a note to clients. The refinery rate has increased 1 percentage point, he estimated.

Crude oil for January delivery gained 23 cents, or 0.3 percent, to close at $85.79 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Futures are down 13 percent this year.

Product Estimates

The Bloomberg survey also showed gasoline stockpiles probably gained 2 million barrels, or 0.9 percent, to 214.1 million. Ten respondents projected an increase and one a decline. Inventories jumped 7.86 million the previous week to 212.1 million.

Stockpiles of distillate fuel, including diesel and heating oil, probably rose 1.1 million barrels, or 1 percent, to 116.2 million, according to the median of responses. Ten respondents forecast an advance and one a drop. Supplies increased 3.03 million barrels the previous week to 115.1 million.

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