MARKET WATCH: Oil prices drop again awaiting inventory reports

Crude oil prices fell on New York and London markets Sept. 17 as concerns about a military strike on Syria eased and Libyan oil production started coming back onto the international market following labor strikes at export terminals.

On Sept. 18, traders and analysts awaited a decision from the Federal Open Market Committee concerning an anticipated reduction in the US economic stimulus program. The government has been buying $85 billion/month in mortgage-backed securities and long-term treasury bonds.

The committee was expected to issue a statement at 2 p.m. EDT upon conclusion of its 2-day meeting.

Separately, a weekly inventory report from the US Energy Information Administration showed crude oil stockpiles were down to their lowest level since August 2012.

US commercial crude oil inventories, excluding those in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, decreased by 4.4 million bbl for the week ended Sept. 13 compared with the previous week. At 355.6 million bbl, the crude inventories are nearing the average range for this time of year, EIA said.

The American Petroleum Institute said Sept. 17 that its inventory reports showed crude oil inventories declined by 252,000 bbl last week.

Gasoline inventories down

EIA said total motor gasoline inventories decreased by 1.6 million bbl last week and are in the upper half of the average range. Finished gasoline inventories and blending components inventories decreased last week.

Distillate fuel inventories decreased by 1.1 million bbl, remaining near the lower limit of the average range for this time of year. Propane-propylene inventories decreased by 100,000 bbl last week and are in the middle of the average range.

Total commercial petroleum inventories decreased by 6.1 million bbl last week. Total products supplied over the last 4-week period averaged 19.1 million b/d, up by 2.9% from the same period last year.

Refinery inputs averaged about 16.1 million b/d during the week ended Sept. 13, up by over 200,000 b/d from the previous week’s average, EIA said. Refineries operated at 92.5% capacity last week. Gasoline production rose, averaging 9.3 million b/d. Distillate fuel production was up slightly last week, averaging about 5.1 million b/d.

US crude oil imports averaged about 7.6 million b/d last week, down by 439,000 b/d from the previous week. Over the last 4 weeks, crude oil imports averaged over 8.1 million b/d. Total motor gasoline imports last week averaged 492,000 b/d.

Energy prices

The October contract for benchmark US light, sweet crudes on the New York Mercantile Exchange fell $1.17 on Sept. 17, settling at $105.42/bbl. The November crude contract declined $1.37 to settle at $104.82/bbl.

Heating oil for October delivery dropped 6.5¢ to a rounded $3/gal on NYMEX. Reformulated gasoline stock for oxygenate blending for October fell 5.5¢ to $2.66/gal.

The October natural gas contract edged up by less than 1¢ to remain at $3.74/MMbtu on NYMEX for a second day. On the US spot market, the gas price at Henry Hub, La. was $3.76/MMbtu, up 7.7¢.

In London, the October IPE contract for North Sea Brent crude decreased $1.88 to $108.19/bbl. The October contract for gas oil settled at $925.75/tonne, down $18.50.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries reported its basket of 12 benchmark crudes was down $1.40 to $107.64/bbl on Sept. 17.

Contact Paula Dittrick at paulad@ogjonline.com.

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