MARKET WATCH: NYMEX oil prices drop awaiting inventory report

Crude oil futures prices declined modestly on the New York market May 20 in anticipation of a weekly government report that unexpectedly showed a significant drop in US oil inventories, which analysts attributed to increased refinery runs and reduced crude oil imports.

The Energy Information Administration on May 21 reported commercial crude oil inventories, excluding the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, decreased 7.2 million bbl for the week ended May 16 compared with May 9.

Before the weekly report was released, analysts surveyed by the Wall Street Journal had expected oil inventories would jump 700,000 bbl. The American Petroleum Institute said its own survey showed the inventory dropped 10.3 million bbl for the week ended May 16.

EIA said its latest estimated inventory puts stocks at 391.3 million bbl, which the agency described as being near the upper limit of the average range for this time of year.

International oil market observers closely watched the news from Libya where an election commission scheduled a parliamentary vote for June as Libya’s lawmakers seek a peaceful resolution to violent disputes among rival militias.

Product inventories climb

Total motor gasoline inventories increased 1 million bbl for the week ended May 16, which EIA called the middle of the average range. Both finished gasoline inventories and blending components inventories increased last week.

Distillate fuel inventories rose 3.4 million bbl, which is below the lower limit of the average range for this time of year, EIA said. Propane-propylene inventories increased 2.2 million bbl and are in the middle of the average range.

US crude oil refinery inputs averaged more than 15.9 million b/d during the week ended May 16, which EIA said was 282,000 b/d more than the previous week’s average. Refineries operated at 88.7% of capacity.

Gasoline production decreased, averaging 9.6 million b/d and distillate fuel production increased, averaging 5 million b/d.

US crude oil imports averaged 6.5 million b/d for the week ended May 16, down 658,000 b/d from the previous week. Over the last 4 weeks, crude oil imports averaged 7 million b/d, 11.3% below the same 4-week period last year.

Total motor gasoline imports, including both finished gasoline and gasoline blending components, last week averaged 997,000 b/d while distillate fuel imports averaged 176,000 b/d.

Energy prices

The New York Mercantile Exchange June crude oil contract price declined 17¢ on May 20, closing at $102.44/bbl. The July contract rose 22¢ to $102.33/bbl.

The June natural gas contract was up 8.2¢ to a rounded $4.55/MMbtu.

Heating oil for June delivery gained less than a penny to a rounded $2.95/gal. Reformulated gasoline stock for oxygenate blending for June delivery edged down by less than a penny to remain at a rounded $2.96/gal.

In London, the July ICE contract for Brent crude delivery was up 32¢, closing at $109.69/bbl. The August contract increased 32¢ to settle at $108.91/bbl. The ICE gas oil contract for June gave up $3 to $909.25/tonne.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries’ basket of 12 benchmark crudes on May 19 was $106.18/bbl, down 25¢.

Contact Paula Dittrick at paulad@ogjonline.com.

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