Oil Declines as U.S. Crude Inventories Unexpectedly Increase

  • U.S. crude stockpiles rose 2.26 million barrels last week: EIA
  • The industry-funded API said supply fell 4.15 million barrels

IHS's Shum: Oil Likely to Be Supported in $50-$60 Range

Oil declined after a government report showed U.S. crude stockpiles increased for the first time in five weeks.

Crude stockpiles rose 2.26 million barrels last week, according to the Energy Information Administration. A 2.5 million decrease was forecast by analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. More than half of the gain was on the West Coast, where the distribution system is isolated from the rest of the country. The industry-funded American Petroleum Institute reported Tuesday that crude supplies declined 4.15 million.

Oil has traded near $50 a barrel since the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries agreed Nov. 30 to cut output for the first time in eight years. Non-OPEC producers including Russia will also trim supply.

"The number was clearly a surprise after the big draw last night," Matt Sallee, who helps manage $15.5 billion in oil-related assets at Tortoise Capital Advisors in Leawood, Kansas, said by telephone. "Inventories have fallen substantially in recent weeks, and I bet there will be another big draw next week. Refineries are running pretty hard right now."

West Texas Intermediate for February delivery fell 81 cents, or 1.5 percent, to settle at $52.49 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The January contract expired Tuesday. Total volume traded was about 24 percent below the 100-day average.

Brent for February settlement slipped 89 cents to $54.46 on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange. The global benchmark crude closed at a $1.97 premium to WTI.

Nationwide inventories increased to 485.4 million in the week ended Dec. 16, and are at the highest seasonal level since the EIA began tracking weekly data in 1982. Supplies on the West Coast, known as PADD 5, increased by 1.28 million barrels to 51.8 million. Stockpiles in the Midwest, or PADD 2, advanced by 1.02 million barrels to 149.3 million.

Regional Stockpiles

"The market’s not too concerned about the build because it was mostly on the West Coast and much of the rest was in the Midwest, which was thanks to a gain in Canadian imports," Carl Larry, director of oil and gas at consultant Frost & Sullivan in Houston, said by telephone.

Crude supply at Cushing, the delivery point for WTI, slipped by 245,000 barrels to 66.3 million, according to the Energy Information Administration. The hub held 66.5 million barrels a week earlier, the highest since reaching a record in May.

"The number itself isn’t significant but when you consider how much inventories rose the prior three weeks it comes as a surprise." said Thomas Finlon, director of Energy Analytics Group in Wellington, Florida, said by telephone.

Surging Demand

Gasoline supplies slipped 1.31 million barrels last week, while stockpiles of distillate fuel, which includes diesel and heating oil, fell 2.42 million. Overall fuel demand surged 13 percent to 21.4 million barrels a day last week, the highest since 2007.

Gasoline futures for January delivery climbed 0.8 percent to $1.6055 a gallon, the highest close since June 9. The February crack spread, a rough measure of the profit from refining crude into gasoline, gained $1.19 to $15.56 a barrel.

Oil-market news:

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