HOUSTON, Dec. 1 -- Energy futures prices fell Tuesday, pulled down by natural gas and heating oil with no signs yet of extended cold winter weather to boost those markets.
Traders also bid down prices in expectation of another increase in US distilllate stocks after several weeks of consecutive declines. Sure enough, the Energy Information Administration said early Wednesday that distillate fuel inventories rose by 2.3 million bbl to 117.9 million bbl during the week ended Nov. 26, with increases in both heating oil and diesel fuel. That followed a gain of 1 million bbl the previous week, after 9 consecutive weeks of declines as demand exceeded supply.
Despite recent gains, US distillate fuel stocks still remain below the lower end of the average range for this time of year, said EIA officials.
Commercial US inventories of crude increased by 900,000 bbl to 293.3 million bbl in the latest week, while gasoline stocks gained 3 million bbl to 205.7 million bbl during the same period. However, US imports of crude declined by 133,000 b/d to nearly 10.1 million b/d last week, although EIA said, "It appears that the amount of imports from Angola and Venezuela were relatively high."
Input of crude into US refineries averaged 15.6 million b/d in the week ended Nov. 26, up 75,000 b/d from the previous week, with refineries operating at 94% of capacity. Heating oil production declined slightly from the previous week while diesel production increased and gasoline production remained relatively flat, EIA reported.
The January natural gas contract continued to plummet Tuesday, plunging as low as $7.41/MMbtu in noon trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange until an afternoon scramble by traders to cover open sales contracts brought the price back up to close at $7.62/MMbtu, down 21.7¢ for the day.
Heating oil for December delivery dropped 5.1¢ to $1.39/gal Tuesday on NYMEX. Gasoline for the same month was down by 3.89¢ to $1.26/gal. The January contract for benchmark US light, sweet crudes lost 63¢ to $49.13/bbl on NYMEX, while the February contract declined by 62¢ to $49.26/bbl. On the US spot market, West Texas Intermediate at Cushing, Okla., was down 63¢ to $49.14/bbl.
In London, the January contract for North Sea Brent crude lost 24¢ to $45.51/bbl Tuesday on the International Petroleum Exchange.
The average price for the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries' basket of seven benchmark crudes increased by 31¢ to $39.77/bbl Tuesday.
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