Crude Supplies in U.S. Declined a Fourth Week, Survey Shows

U.S. crude supplies probably dropped for a fourth week as energy companies pared stockpiles to reduce year-end tax burdens, a Bloomberg survey showed.

Inventories decreased by 2.3 million barrels, or 0.6 percent, to 370 million in the week ended Dec. 20, based on the median of nine analyst estimates before a report on Dec. 27 from the Energy Information Administration. Seven of the respondents forecast a decline and two said there was a gain.

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 3 million in the week ended Dec. 13, which was larger than the nationwide decline of 2.94 million.

“Crude supplies are expected to show a sizable draw,” said Jim Ritterbusch, president of Ritterbusch & Associates in Galena, Illinois. “Tax considerations tend to force large crude draws at this time of year.”

West Texas Intermediate crude for January delivery rose 25 cents, or 0.3 percent, to $99.16 a barrel at 10:54 a.m. on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract touched $99.40 on Dec. 20, the highest intraday level since Oct. 22.

The refinery utilization rate was probably unchanged at 91.5 percent of capacity, the survey showed. Refineries ran at 92.6 percent of capacity in the seven days ended Dec. 6, the highest level since July 12, according to the EIA, the Energy Department’s statistical arm.

Gasoline stockpiles probably increased 1.1 million barrels, or 0.5 percent, to 221.6 million last week. Eight respondents projected a gain and one forecast a decrease.

Inventories of distillate fuel, a category that includes heating oil and diesel slipped 1 million barrels, or 0.9 percent, to 115 million, the survey showed. Six of the analysts forecast a decline and three an increase.

The EIA is scheduled to release its weekly petroleum report at 11 a.m. on Dec. 27 in Washington, two days later than usual because of Christmas.

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