Strong Crude Draw Boosts Oil Prices

The biggest oil price third-quarter rally in years came to a grinding halt this week with preliminary OPEC production figures for September suggesting an increase, quickly dampening enthusiasm about record-high oil cut deal compliance rates in August. The latest inventory data from API added to pessimism with a 4.19-million-barrel build in gasoline stockpiles.

Now EIA is out with official oil and fuels inventory figures and these figures will certainly make oil bulls perk up. The authority said crude oil inventories in the week to September 29 dropped by as much as 6 million barrels to 465 million barrels.

This compares with an average analyst expectation of a 300,000-barrel draw, although the actual forecasts ranged from a build of 2.7 million barrels to a decline of 3 million barrels among 11 analysts polled by the Wall Street Journal.

For gasoline stockpiles, the EIA had some not so good news for traders, but it could have been worse: inventories of the fuel rose by 1.6 million barrels last week, suggesting that the drop in gasoline demand following the end of driving season is already in progress. Still, it’s not as bleak as API’s figures yesterday that foretold of a 4.19-million-barrel build.

Refinery maintenance season is looming large over U.S. facilities but last week these processed crude at an average rate of 16 million bpd, compared with 16.2 million bpd in the week before, producing 9.9 million bpd of gasoline, flat on the previous week.

WTI was trading at US$50.23 at the time of writing, while Brent was changing hands at US$55.83, both sharply down from last week’s multi-year highs. Analysts are split on what comes next, with some insisting that there is a fundamental driver behind the rally and it will return, and others arguing that the last quarter of the year is not the best time for WTI, and chances are that we’ll see consistently low prices until the end of the year.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com