U.S. oil stockpiles probably dropped last week to the lowest level in 10 weeks as refineries kept their utilization rate at a high level and imports fell, a Bloomberg survey showed.
Crude supplies declined 1.7 million barrels, or 0.5 percent, in the week ended Dec. 21 to 370 million, the least since Oct. 12, according to the median of nine analyst estimates surveyed before an Energy Department report on Dec. 28. Seven of the respondents forecast a decrease, one projected a gain and one said inventories will be unchanged.
Refineries operated at a utilization rate of 91.2 percent last week, the survey showed. That’s down 0.3 percentage point from the previous week and up from November’s low of 85.4 percent. Imports may drop for a second time after the 1.2 percent decline in the week ended Dec. 14.
“Imports have likely pulled back and refinery runs were still relatively high,” said Kyle Cooper, director of commodities research at IAF Advisors in Houston. “There will be another increase in petroleum production and a drop in crude inventories.”
Oil stockpiles fell 964,000 barrels in the week ended Dec. 14 to 371.6 million, the Energy Department reported last week.
The Bloomberg survey also showed gasoline stockpiles probably rose 700,000 barrels, or 0.3 percent, to 220 million. Five respondents projected a gain and four forecast a drop. Inventories gained 2.21 million the previous week to 219.3 million barrels.
Stockpiles of distillate fuel, a category that includes diesel and heating oil, probably decreased 1 million barrels to 116 million, according to the median of responses. Seven respondents forecast a drop and two expected an advance. Supplies declined 1.09 million barrels the previous week.
Crude oil for February delivery slid 5 cents to settle at $88.61 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Futures are down 10 percent this year.
The Energy Department is scheduled to release its weekly report at 11 a.m. on Dec. 28 in Washington, two days later than usual due to the Christmas holiday.