MARKET WATCH: Crude futures prices fall awaiting Fed news

Crude oil futures prices were down for a second consecutive day on the New York Mercantile Exchange Aug. 20 as traders and analysts awaited weekly inventory reports and also awaited news from the Federal Reserve regarding its reductions to the economic stimulus program.

Analysts were awaiting minutes from the Fed’s last policy board meeting, which were scheduled to be released at 2 p.m. EDT on Aug. 21, for details on the timetable about when and how the Fed plans to begin tapering the stimulus program.

Elsewhere, continued strikes in Libya continue to disrupt oil production and exports while civil unrest in Egypt and Iraqi oil export disruptions are supporting crude prices. Egypt’s officials reported crude oil and refined product transportation operations remained normal at the Suez Canal and the Sumed pipeline.

Crude supplies down

On Aug 20, the American Petroleum Institute said crude oil stocks fell by 1.2 million bbl for the week ended Aug. 16. Gasoline stocks fell 3.7 million bbl, while distillates rose 1.8 million bbl, API said.

On Aug. 21, the US Energy Information Administration’s weekly petroleum report showed US commercial crude inventories decreased by 1.4 million bbl to 359.1 million bbl. This excludes the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

Crude supplies remain near the upper limit of the 5-year range for this time of the year, EIA said.

EIA said crude oil imports averaged about 8 million b/d for the week ended Aug. 16, up by 34,000 b/d from the previous week. Over the last 4 weeks, crude oil imports averaged just under 8 million b/d, which was 501,000 b/d below the same 4-week period last year.

Distillate inventories were up by 900,000 bbl. Distillate product supplied averaged about 3.8 million b/d over the past 4 weeks, up 2.8% when compared with the same period last year.

US refineries operated at 91% of capacity last week. Total gasoline inventories decreased by 4 million bbl for the week ended Aug. 16. Total motor gasoline supplied averaged 9.2 million b/d over the past 4 weeks, marking a 2% increase from the same period a year ago.

Energy prices

The September contract for benchmark US light, sweet crudes on the New York Mercantile Exchange dipped $2.14 to $104.96/bbl Aug. 20. The October contract dropped $1.75 to $105.11/bbl.

Heating oil for September delivery rose 0.74¢ to settle at a rounded $3.08/gal on NYMEX. Reformulated stock for oxygenate blending for the same month dropped less than 1¢ to settle at a rounded $2.93/gal.

The September natural gas contract decreased 1.9¢ to close at $3.44/MMbtu on NYMEX. On the US spot market, gas at Henry Hub, La., gained 2¢ to close at a rounded $3.49/MMbtu.

In London, the October IPE contract for North Sea Brent rose 25¢ to $110.15/bbl. The September contract for gas oil settled at $938.75/tonne, down $3.50.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries reported its basket of 12 benchmark crudes closed at $107.06/bbl on Aug. 20, down 77¢ from the previous trading session.

Contact Paula Dittrick at paulad@ogjonline.com.

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