MARKET WATCH: NYMEX crude oil futures price settles above $31/bbl

Light, sweet crude prices rose by more than $1/bbl on the New York market Jan. 26 to settle above $31/bbl in a volatile week for oil prices while traders and analysts awaited release of the weekly government crude oil and product inventory, which showed a smaller-than-expected gain in crude.

The Energy Information Administration estimated US commercial crude oil inventories, excluding the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, increased 8.4 million bbl for the week ended Jan. 22 from the previous week. The latest total was 494.9 million bbl, the Petroleum Status Report said Jan. 27.

Analysts surveyed by the Wall Street Journal in advance of the inventory’s release had forecast a gain of 3.3 million bbl. Meanwhile, the American Petroleum Institute said its own calculations showed a gain of 11.4 million bbl.

EIA said total motor gasoline inventories increased 3.5 million bbl, which the agency called well above the upper limit of the average range. Both finished gasoline inventories and blending components inventories increased last week.

Distillate fuel inventories decreased 4.1 million bbl, which EIA said was near the upper limit of the average range for this time of year. Propane-propylene inventories fell 6.2 million bbl for the week ended Jan. 22, and EIA said that level remained well above the upper limit of the average range.

US refinery inputs averaged more than 15.6 million b/d for the week ended Jan. 22, which was 551,000 b/d less than the previous week’s average. Refineries operated at 87.4% of capacity.

Gasoline production decreased, averaging 9.4 million b/d, and distillate fuel production decreased, averaging 4.5 million b/d.

US crude oil imports averaged 7.6 million b/d, which EIA said was down 170,000 b/d from the previous week. During the past 4 weeks, crude oil imports averaged about 7.8 million b/d, and EIA said that import level was 7.2% above the same 4-week period last year.

Total motor gasoline imports, including both finished gasoline and gasoline blending components, averaged 576,000 b/d while distillate fuel imports averaged 186,000 b/d.

Energy prices

The March crude oil contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange gained $1.11 to settle at $31.45/bbl on Feb. 26. The April contract rose $1.10 to $32.90/bbl.

The NYMEX natural gas contract for February gained 2¢ to a rounded $2.18/MMbtu. The Henry Hub gas price climbed 9¢ to $2.23/MMbtu on Jan. 26.

Heating oil for February delivery rose 3¢ to a rounded 97¢/gal. The price for reformulated gasoline stock for oxygenates blending for February was up 1.7¢ to a rounded $1.05/gal.

The March ICE contract for Brent crude gained $1.30 to settle at $31.80/bbl on Jan. 26, and the April contract climbed $1.26 to $32.57/bbl. The ICE gas oil contract for February was $282.75/tonne, up $5.50.

The average price for the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries’ basket of 12 benchmark crudes for Jan. 26 was $25.11/bbl, down 47¢.

Contact Paula Dittrick at

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