Oil Edges Lower As Traders Eye Tropical Storm

By Stephanie Yang and Sarah McFarlane Features Dow Jones Newswires

Oil prices eased on Thursday as investors braced for a potential hurricane and remained cautious as to whether the glut in oil supplies was finally disappearing.

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Light, sweet crude for October delivery lost 50 cents, or 1%, to $47.91 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent, the global benchmark, fell 29 cents, or 0.5%, to $52.33 a barrel.

U.S. stocks continued to draw for the eighth consecutive week, with data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration published Wednesday showing a fall of 3.3 million barrels of crude oil in the week ended Aug 18. The decline in stockpiles was largely in line with analyst expectations on average.

However, some analysts have been less optimistic on the drop in crude inventories, especially as U.S. production has risen and refiners prepare for a period of maintenance.

"I think there's still concern. This week we showed another increase in U.S. oil production," said Kyle Cooper, a consultant at ION Energy Group in Houston.

According to the EIA, U.S. production rose to 9.5 million barrels a day in the week ended Friday, nearing a record of 9.6 million barrels a day hit in June 2015.

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S&P Global Platts said that although the global surplus was slowly being worked through, as shown by the U.S. stock draws, "traders already appear to be looking ahead to next month, when crude stocks typically build as refinery demand fades when units are taken offline for the fall maintenance period."

Investors also monitored tropical storm Harvey, which weather forecasters said may strengthen into a hurricane, heading toward the coast of Texas. Risks of flooding ignited concerns that the storm may hit refiners, hurting crude demand. It could be the first hurricane to hit Texas since the U.S. Gulf became a major exporter of refined products and crude, said Oliver Jakob, head of Swiss consultancy Petromatrix.

"A hurricane causing damage to the refinery infrastructure of Texas would have today a much greater international impact than in previous tropical weather events," Mr. Jakob said.

Meanwhile, gasoline futures rose 0.2% to $1.4984 a gallon and diesel futures inched slightly higher to $1.6249 a gallon.

Write to Stephanie Yang at stephanie.yang@wsj.com and Sarah McFarlane at sarah.mcfarlane@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

August 24, 2017 10:40 ET (14:40 GMT)