MARKET WATCH: NYMEX crude oil prices rise awaiting inventory report

Crude oil prices rose modestly on the New York market Nov. 19 while traders and analysts awaited a US government inventory report, which showed a ninth consecutive weekly climb in crude oil inventories, as expected.

The US Energy Information Administration reported Nov. 20 crude stockpiles rose 400,000 bbl to 388.5 million bbl for the week ended Nov. 15. Separately, the American Petroleum Institute’s own weekly statistics showed US crude stocks grew 512,000 bbl to 383.3 million bbl.

Meanwhile, US Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told the National Economists Club in Washington, DC, on Nov. 20 that he expects the Fed’s economic-stimulus policy will remain intact for an extended period. Following his comment, the US dollar weakened against other currencies, which subsequently supported dollar-based oil futures. Bernanke’s term ends Jan. 31, 2014.

Regarding world oil prices, Capital Economics, a London research firm, forecast Brent oil could dip to $90/bbl by Dec. 31, 2014, and possibly decline to $70/bbl by 2020 given easing tensions in the Middle East and rising crude supplies.

US crude supplies increase

EIA said US commercial crude oil inventories of 388.5 million bbl, excluding those in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, were well above the upper limit of the average range for this time of year.

Total motor gasoline inventories decreased 300,000 bbl, putting supplies near the upper limit of the average range. Finished gasoline inventories increased, and blending components inventories decreased.

Distillate fuel inventories decreased 4.8 million bbl and are near the lower limit of the average range for this time of year. Propane-propylene inventories fell 2.4 million bbl, which is below the lower limit of the average range.

US refinery inputs averaged over 15.4 million b/d during the week ended Nov. 15, which was 36,000 b/d higher than the previous week’s average. Refineries operated at 88.6% of capacity. Gasoline production decreased last week, averaging 9.3 million b/d. Distillate fuel production decreased, averaging 4.9 million b/d.

Crude oil imports averaged about 7.9 million b/d, up 19,000 b/d from the previous week. Over the last 4 weeks, crude oil imports averaged 7.6 million b/d, 3.7% below the same 4-week period last year. Total motor gasoline imports, including finished gasoline and gasoline blending components, averaged 451,000 b/d for the week ended Nov. 15. Distillate fuel imports averaged 97,000 b/d.

Energy prices

The New York Mercantile Exchange December crude contract rose 31¢ on Nov. 19 to settle at $93.34/bbl. Trading was light for the December contract, scheduled to expire Nov. 20. The January 2014 contract increased 21¢, settling at $93.89/bbl on Nov. 19.

Heating oil for December delivery was down a rounded 1.6¢ to settle at $2.91/gal on NYMEX. Reformulated gasoline stock for oxygenate blending for December delivery decreased 1.73¢ to a rounded $2.64/gal.

The December natural gas contract on NYMEX dropped 6¢ to settle at a rounded $3.56/MMbtu. On the US spot market, the gas price at Henry Hub, La., was a rounded $3.63/MMbtu, a 6¢ decrease.

Natural gas prices have gone both directions this week on strong inventories and uncertain weather forecasts. Commodity Weather Group said the “strongest cold push of the season so far” is expected in the US Midwest, South, and East starting Nov. 23-24 and going into early next week.

Forecasts going into December remain uncertain, Commodity Weather Group said.

In London, the January ICE contract for Brent crude oil fell $1.55, settling at $106.92/bbl. The December contract for ICE gas oil gained 50¢ to $910.75/tonne.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries reported its basket of 12 benchmark crudes was $105.02/bbl on Nov. 19, down 2¢.

Contact Paula Dittrick at paulad@ogjonline.com.

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