MARKET WATCH: Oil declines slightly on unemployment concerns

Paula Dittrick
OGJ Senior Staff Writer

HOUSTON, Sept. 30 -- Oil prices fell slightly on the New York Mercantile Exchange on Sept. 29 ahead of the Sept. 30 release of the US Energy Information Administration weekly inventory report.

With the US unemployment rate now at a 26-year high, investors are concerned that the statistics about job losses could worsen when September unemployment figures are released Oct. 2. During August the US unemployment rate jumped to 9.7%.

Meanwhile, consumer confidence fell to 53.1 points from a revised 54.5 in August, amid rising unemployment, the New York-based Conference Board said Sept. 29.

US stocks ended lower when the Sept. 29 trading session closed, and analysts noted that the oil market had tracked the equities market for the day.

US inventories
EIA reported Sept. 30 that commercial US crude inventories increased by 2.8 million bbl to 338.4 million bbl in the week ended Sept. 25. Gasoline inventories decreased by 1.6 million bbl, while distillate fuel inventories increased by 300,000 million bbl.

Imports of crude into the US averaged 9.5 million b/d for the week ended Sept. 25, down 261,000 b/d from the previous week, EIA said. Over the last 4 weeks, crude oil imports have averaged 9.3 million b/d, which is 616,000 b/d above the same 4-week period last year.

Total motor gasoline imports (including both finished gasoline and gasoline blending components) averaged 851,000 b/d for the week ended Sept. 25, while distillate fuel imports averaged 150,000 b/d during the same period.

Energy prices
The November contract for benchmark US light, sweet crudes dropped 13¢ to $66.71/bbl Sept. 29 on NYMEX. The December contract fell 9¢ to $67.08/bbl. On the US spot market, West Texas Intermediate at Cushing, Okla., was down 13¢ to $66.71/bbl. Heating oil for October delivery increased 0.97¢ to $1.70/gal on NYMEX. Reformulated blend stock for oxygenate blending (RBOB) for the same month dropped 0.99¢ to $1.628/gal.

The November natural gas contract rose 4.5¢ to $4.875/MMbtu on NYMEX. On the US spot market, gas at Henry Hub, La., lost 18¢ to $3.36/MMbtu.

The monthly EIA report showed 70.45 bcfd of gross marketed gas production in the Lower 48 during July as compared with 71.65 bcfd during June. Lower drilling activity cut into gas supplies.

Pritchard Capital Partners LLC analysts said they expect to see gas prices move higher following the report, and they also expect the rate of production declines to gain momentum in EIA’s report due out at the end of October.

In London, the November IPE contract for North Sea Brent crude fell 5¢ to $65.49/bbl. Gas oil for October decreased $5 to $537.25/tonne.

The average price for the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries' basket of 12 reference crudes was up 18¢ to $64.18/bbl on Sept. 29.

Contact Paula Dittrick at paulad@ogjonline.com.

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