MARKET WATCH: NYMEX oil prices rebound awaiting inventory report

Light, sweet crude prices for February gained more than $1/bbl on Dec. 29 to settle at $37.87/bbl as analysts and traders awaited release of a weekly government inventory. The Dec. 30 report showed US crude oil supplies grew, which was contrary to what analysts and traders anticipated.

The US Energy Information Administration estimated commercial crude oil inventories, excluding the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, increased 2.6 million bbl for the week ended Dec. 25 compared with the previous week. The latest total was 487.4 million bbl, the Petroleum Status Report showed.

Analysts surveyed by the Wall Street Journal in advance of the report’s release said they expected crude supplies would fall by 1 million bbl for the week.

Separately, the American Petroleum Institute said its own calculations showed US crude oil supplies increased 2.9 million bbl for the week ended Dec. 25.

Brent crude oil prices remained under pressure on the London market after Saudi Arabia Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said Dec. 30 that his nation has no near-term plans to limit oil production.

“It’s a reliable policy, and we won’t change it,” al-Naimi told reporters in Riyadh regarding Saudi Arabia’s current strategy of unrestrained production. In previous oil-price downturns, the kingdom cut production to support oil prices.

Recent statistics from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries showed Saudi Arabia produced 10.13 million b/d during November compared with 9.584 million b/d for the same month 1 year ago.

US gasoline inventories climb

Total US motor gasoline inventories increased 900,000 bbl for the week ended Dec. 25, which EIA described as being in the middle of the average range. Finished gasoline inventories increased while blending components inventories decreased.

Distillate fuel inventories increased 1.8 million bbl, which was in the upper half of the average range for this time of year. Propane-propylene inventories climbed 100,000 bbl, and EIA said levels were well above the upper limit of the average range.

US refinery inputs averaged 16.7 million b/d for the week ended Dec. 25, which was 214,000 b/d more than the previous week’s average. Refineries operated at 92.6% of capacity.

Gasoline production increased, averaging more than 9.9 million b/d. Distillate fuel production decreased last week, averaging more than 4.9 million b/d.

US crude oil imports averaged 7.9 million b/d, up 566,000 b/d from the previous week. Over the last 4 weeks, crude oil imports averaged 7.9 million b/d, which was 4.7% above the same 4-week period last year.

Total motor gasoline imports, including finished gasoline and gasoline blending components, averaged 487,000 b/d for the week ended Dec. 25. Distillate fuel imports averaged 167,000 b/d.

Energy prices

The February crude oil contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange gained $1.06 to settle Dec. 29 at $37.87/bbl. The March contract was up $1.04 to settle at $38.86/bbl.

The NYMEX natural gas contract for January rose 14¢ to a rounded $2.37/MMbtu. The Henry Hub gas price was unavailable for Dec. 29. The latest available Henry Hub price was $2.08/MMbtu on Dec. 28.

Heating oil for January delivery gained nearly 4¢ to a rounded $1.23/gal. The price for reformulated gasoline stock for oxygenates blending for January was up 4¢ to a rounded $1.27/gal.

The February ICE contract for Brent crude climbed $1.17 to $37.79/bbl, and the March contract was up $1.09 to $38.22/bbl. The ICE gas oil contract for January was $341.25/tonne on Dec. 29, up $5.25.

The average price for OPEC’s basket of 12 benchmark crudes for Dec. 29 was unavailable. The Dec. 28 basket was $31.71/bbl, down 46¢.

Contact Paula Dittrick at

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