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Divergent Data Can Make for a Whiplash World for Oil Traders

  • Weekly reports by industry, U.S. can send prices reeling
  • Different methodology, ‘random statistical noise’ blamed
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Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

About 1.5 million barrels of oil. That was the difference this week between the change in U.S. stockpiles suggested by an industry report and data from the federal government.

Think that’s a lot? It’s actually the closest the American Petroleum Institute and the U.S. Energy Information Administration have been in their reports in almost two months. On Dec. 27, the API data implied a 4.46 million barrel decline while the EIA showed a 7,000-barrel build the very next day.