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Crude Oil Price Tumbles After Week of Storm Threats

Paul Ausick

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) released its weekly petroleum status report Wednesday morning, showing that U.S. commercial crude inventories decreased by 5.7 million barrels last week, maintaining a total U.S. commercial crude inventory of 456.5 million barrels. The commercial crude inventory remained near the upper limit of the average range for this time of year.

The threat from another tropical storm in the Gulf curtailed production, imports and refinery utilization last week.

Tuesday evening the American Petroleum Institute (API) reported that crude inventories fell by 7.1 million barrels in the week ending October 13. API also reported gasoline supplies rose by 1.9 million barrels and distillate inventories rose by 1.6 million barrels. For the same period, analysts had consensus estimates for a decrease of 4.75 million barrels in crude inventories, a decrease of 1 million barrels in gasoline inventories and a drop of 1.5 million barrels in distillate stockpiles.

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Total gasoline inventories rose by 900,000 barrels last week, according to the EIA, and remain in the upper half of the five-year average range. U.S. refineries produced over 10 million barrels of gasoline a day last week, flat compared to the prior week. Total motor gasoline supplied (the agency's proxy for demand) averaged over 9.3 million barrels a day for the past four weeks, down by about 100,000 barrels a day compared with the prior week.

Reuters energy analyst John Kemp reported Monday that hedge funds and other non-market participants cut their net long positions in the five major futures and options contracts linked to petroleum by 32 million barrels according to data as of Tuesday October 10.

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Benchmark Brent crude contracts fell by 16 million barrels, and West Texas Intermediate (WTI) contracts dropped 7 million barrels.

Geopolitical concerns have moved crude higher over the past several days, particularly with regard to the strained relationship in northern Iraq between the Iraqis and the Kurds. Unless those strains erupt into a hot fight, they will recede and futures market positioning indicates that prices need to drop.

Before the EIA report, WTI crude for November delivery traded up about 0.8% at around $52.24 a barrel, and it traded at $52.10 shortly afterward, before falling below $52. WTI settled at $51.88 on Tuesday and opened at $51.94 Wednesday morning. The 52-week range on November futures is $42.84 to $58.37.

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Distillate inventories increased by 500,000 last week and remain in the lower half of the average range for this time of year. Distillate product supplied averaged over 3.7 million barrels a day over the past four weeks, down by 6.4% compared with the same period last year. Distillate production averaged 4.8 million barrels a day last week, down by 100,000 barrels a day compared to the prior week's production.

For the past week, crude imports averaged 7.5 million barrels a day, down by about 134,000 barrels a day compared with the previous week. Refineries were running at 84.5% of capacity, with daily input averaging over 15.4 million barrels a day, about 819,000 barrels a day less than the previous week's average.

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Week over week, U.S. crude oil exports rose by 528,000 barrels a day last week, and U.S. production fell by 1.07 million barrels a day.

According to AAA, the current national average pump price per gallon of regular gasoline is $2.461, down 1.7 cents from $2.478 a week ago and down more than 16 cents per gallon compared with the month-ago price. Last year at this time, a gallon of regular gasoline cost $2.238 on average in the United States.

Here is a look at how share prices for two blue-chip stocks and two exchange traded funds reacted to this latest report.

Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) traded down about 0.1%, at $82.86 in a 52-week range of $76.05 to $93.22. Over the past 12 months, Exxon stock has traded down about 5.6%.

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Chevron Corp. (CVX) traded down about 0.9%, at $119.10 in a 52-week range of $99.87 to $120.89. As of last night's close, Chevron shares are trading up about 16.3% over the past 12 months.

The United States Oil ETF (USO) traded down about 0.1%, at $10.48 in a 52-week range of $8.65 to $12.00.

The VanEck Vectors Oil Services ETF (OIH) traded down about 0.6%, at $24.66 in a 52-week range of $21.70 to $36.35.

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