MARKET WATCH: Oil settles above $81/bbl on mixed US demand signals

Crude oil prices settled above $81/bbl on the New York market on Nov. 23 upon support from the US Department of Commerce’s upward revision in third-quarter gross domestic product growth.

Paula Dittrick
OGJ Senior Staff Writer

HOUSTON, Nov. 24 -- Crude oil prices settled above $81/bbl on the New York market on Nov. 23 upon support from the US Department of Commerce’s upward revision in third-quarter gross domestic product growth.

DOC reported the economy expanded at a rate of 2.5%/year during the third quarter compared with an expected 2%/year during July, August, and September.

“In a day with little in the way of new fundamental data releases, oil prices were largely at the mercy of macroeconomic developments,” Barclays Capital analysts said of the Nov. 23 settlement price.

In its weekly report issued late Nov. 23, the American Petroleum Institute said oil inventories increased 5.2 million bbl while inventories of gasoline and distillates fell. On Nov. 24 the US Energy Information Administration said oil inventories increased by 1 million bbl from the previous week.

US crude oil imports averaged 9 million b/d for the week ended Nov. 19, up by 1.2 million b/d from the previous week, EIA said. In the last 4 weeks, oil imports averaged 8.4 million b/d, which is 189,000 b/d below the same 4-week period last year, EIA said.

Earlier in the week, Venezuela’s Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez told reporters that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries ministers do not expect to discuss production quotas during a Dec. 11 OPEC meeting in Ecuador.

OPEC ministers plan to analyze the outlook for 2011 during the December meeting, he said. Venezuela believes $100/bbl is a “fair” price, he added, saying “various” ministers share this outlook, although he did not elaborate.

“The question is how and when. We don’t think it will be immediate, but we should reach $100[/bbl],” Ramirez said.

Energy prices
The new front-month January contract for benchmark US light, sweet crudes dropped 49¢ to $81.25/bbl Nov. 23 on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The February contract declined 50¢ to $81.83/bbl. On the US spot market, WTI at Cushing, Okla., dropped 99¢ to $80.75/bbl.

Heating oil for December delivery dipped 1.9¢ to $2.2496/gal on NYMEX. Reformulated blend stock for oxygenate blending for the same month fell 1.77¢ to $2.134/gal.

The December natural gas contract dropped less than 1¢ to $4.264/MMbtu on NYMEX. On the US spot market, gas at Henry Hub, La., gained 2¢ to $3.95/MMbtu.

In London, the January IPE contract for North Sea Brent crude dropped 71¢ to $83.25/bbl. Gas oil for December lost $1 to $699.75/tonne.

The average price for the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries' basket of 12 reference crudes fell 82¢ to $80.14/bbl.

Contact Paula Dittrick at paulad@ogjonline.com.

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