Dec. 31 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. crude supplies probably dropped for a fifth week as refineries operated at the highest rate in five months and energy companies pared stockpiles to reduce year-end tax burdens, a Bloomberg survey showed.
Inventories decreased by 2.83 million barrels, or 0.8 percent, to 364.7 million in the week ended Dec. 27, based on the median of eight analyst estimates before a report on Jan. 3 from the Energy Information Administration. Seven of the respondents forecast a decline and one said there was a gain.
Nationwide stockpiles slipped 23.8 million barrels in the four weeks ended Dec. 20 as refinery utilization grew. Companies in Gulf Coast states typically delay imports to minimize supplies at the end of the year to reduce local taxes. Supplies in the Gulf states, known as PADD 3, dropped 5.14 million barrels in the week ended Dec. 20, which was larger than the nationwide decline of 4.73 million.
“Crude supplies should decline again while the products should post builds,” said Tim Evans, an energy analyst at Citi Futures in New York.
West Texas Intermediate crude for February delivery fell 87 cents, or 0.9 percent, to settle at $98.42 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange today. It closed at $100.32 on Dec. 27, the highest level since Oct. 18. Prices rose 6.1 percent this month and have climbed 7.2 percent this year.
The refinery utilization rate was probably unchanged at 92.7 percent of capacity, the highest level since July 12, according to the survey.
Gasoline stockpiles probably rose 1.38 million barrels, or 0.6 percent, to 221.2 million last week. All of the respondents projected a gain. An increase of that size would leave supplies at the highest level since Aug. 9.
Inventories of distillate fuel, a category that includes heating oil and diesel advanced 750,000 barrels, or 0.7 percent, to 114.9 million, the survey showed. Six of the analysts forecast an increase and two a decline.
The EIA is scheduled to release its weekly petroleum report at 11 a.m. on Jan. 3 in Washington, two days later than usual because of the New Year’s Day holiday.
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