Oil Prices Recover After U.S. Stockpiles Data

By Alison Sider Features Dow Jones Newswires

Oil futures were rising Wednesday after U.S. data showed refiners continued to gobble up crude oil from storage tanks, drawing down stockpiles.

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U.S. crude futures were recently up 23 cents, or 0.46%, to $49.79 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent, the global benchmark, fell 7 cents, or 0.13%, to $52.03 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration reported that U.S. crude inventories fell 3.6 million barrels last week. The draw was significantly more than analysts and traders were expecting, and a contrast to the nearly 900,000-barrel increase reported Tuesday evening by the American Petroleum Institute, an industry group.

In recent days, prices have tumbled amid concerns that relentlessly rising U.S. output could thwart efforts by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to bring supplies back in balance with demand. But prices jumped after the figures showing falling U.S. supplies were released.

"People are going to focus on the draws on stockpiles of crude more than anything right now," said Mark Waggoner, president of Excel Futures.

The drop in crude supplies came as refiners returned from seasonal maintenance and ramped up fuel output sharply. Refinery utilization of 94.1% is the highest level for this time of year since April, 2001.

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But that sent millions of barrels of gasoline and diesel into storage as fuelmakers churned out more than consumers could use. Gasoline stockpiles grew by 3.4 million barrels last week. Diesel stockpiles also increased unexpectedly, rising by 2.7 million barrels. In total, stocks of oil and fuel rose by 6.6 million barrels.

Mr. Waggoner said positive economic data and a stock market rally have bolstered confidence that the U.S. economy is strong enough that drivers will take to the roads this summer and soak up the extra gasoline.

But some analysts are less confident.

"I think this is a very mixed report, and we're advising not to buy the kneejerk rally," said Chris Kettenmann, chief energy strategist at Macro Risk Advisors. He said a 515,000 barrel-a-day increase in net oil imports is a "pretty damning" signal that the glut of oil isn't easing rapidly enough to justify oil prices above $50 a barrel.

"The OPEC-led cuts were supposed to usher in an accelerated drawdown in U.S. inventories," he said. "It's a waiting game. I'm not willing to wait around."

Gasoline futures fell 2.52 cents, or 1.55%, to $1.5978 a gallon. Diesel futures fell 0.86 cent, or 0.56%, to $1.5366 a gallon.

Neanda Salvaterra and Jenny W. Hsu contributed to this article.

Write to Alison Sider at alison.sider@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

April 26, 2017 12:39 ET (16:39 GMT)