MARKET WATCHCrude futures prices continue to strengthen

July 27, 2005
Crude prices continued to climb July 26 in anticipation of a drop in US oil inventories for the fourth consecutive week.

Sam Fletcher
Senior Writer

HOUSTON, July 27 -- Crude prices continued to climb July 26 in anticipation of a drop in US oil inventories for the fourth consecutive week.

As expected, the Energy Information Administration said July 27 that commercial US crude inventories plunged by 2.3 million bbl to 317.8 million bbl during the week ended July 22. Gasoline inventories dropped by 2.1 million bbl to 209.2 million bbl during the same period, but distillate fuel stocks escalated by 3.1 million bbl to 125.8 million bbl.

Imports of crude into the US fell by 885,000 b/d to 9.9 million b/d during the week. However, EIA officials said, "It appears that imports from Mexico last week were not yet significantly impacted by Hurricane Emily," which made landfall July 20 in northeastern Mexico.

Crude input into US refineries averaged 15.8 million b/d during the reported period, up by 173,000 b/d from the previous week, with facilities working at 93.5% of capacity. Production of gasoline and distillate fuel "increased substantially, EIA said.

Oil and natural gas production and crude imports in the Gulf of Mexico have been repeatedly disrupted as seven tropical storms and two hurricanes have threatened that area since the start of the US Atlantic hurricane season in June. That's a record number of storms so early in the season, officials said.

Hurricane Emily forced the cumulative shut-in of 240,024 bbl of crude production and 1.583 bcf of natural gas production from the gulf during July 18-22. The more destructive Hurricane Dennis shut in a cumulative 5,297,404 bbls of oil and 23.246 bcf of natural gas during July 8-15. Additional production was lost to earlier tropical storms.

Energy prices
The September contract for benchmark US light, sweet crudes gained 20¢ to $59.20/bbl July 26 on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The October contract advanced by 26¢ to $60.01/bbl. On the US spot market, West Texas Intermediate at Cushing, Okla., shot up by $3.20 to $59.21/bbl. However, gasoline for August delivery declined by 1.06¢ to $1.70/gal on NYMEX. Heating oil for the same month dipped by 0.29¢ to $1.60/gal. The August natural gas contract gained 14.1¢ to $7.43/MMbtu.

In London, the September contract for North Sea Brent crude was up by 17¢ to $58.03/bbl on the International Petroleum Exchange. The August contract for gas oil jumped by $13.25 to $527.50/tonne.

The average price for the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries' basket of 11 benchmark crudes increased by 62¢ to $52.69/bbl on July 26.

Contact Sam Fletcher at [email protected]