Oil Pulls Back After Stocks Data

By Alison Sider and Christopher Alessi Features Dow Jones Newswires

Oil prices were mixed Wednesday, with the U.S. benchmark ending the day lower after inventory data showed that the amount of oil in storage increased, while the global benchmark rose slightly.

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U.S. crude futures settled down 29 cents, or 0.55%, at $52.18 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, snapping a three session streak of gains. Brent, the global benchmark, rose 11 cents, or 0.19%, to $58.44 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe.

Crude stockpiles rose by 856,000 barrels last week, according to figures from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That is the first weekly increase since the week ended Sept. 15, and analysts and traders surveyed by The Wall Street Journal were expecting stockpiles of crude oil to have decreased by 2.2 million barrels, on average.

The U.S. benchmark price had already started to edge lower Wednesday morning, after the American Petroleum Institute, an industry group, said late Tuesday that its own data showed a 519,000-barrel increase in crude supplies for last week.

The figures also showed that U.S. oil production rebounded to pre-hurricane levels, rising to more than 9.5 million barrels a day.

But the EIA data also showed big drops in gasoline and diesel supplies, which fell by 5.5 million barrels and 5.2 million barrels, respectively -- well ahead of what analysts had been anticipating. That brought total stockpiles of petroleum products to a two-year low. The figures propelled fuel prices higher and likely limited crude's losses, said Bob Yawger, head of the futures division at Mizuho Securities USA.

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"If it wasn't for the increase in demand in refined products, you probably would have seen crude oil significantly lower right now," he said.

Gasoline futures rose for a seventh straight day to 1.93 cents, or 1.13%, to $1.7348 a gallon, their highest settlement since Sept. 1. Diesel futures settled down 0.39 cent, or 0.21%, at $1.8182 a gallon.

Another surge in exports of U.S. crude also supported prices, Mr. Yawger said. The gap between U.S. and global price benchmarks has supported some of the largest export levels on record. Shipments last week of 1.924 million barrels a day were the second-highest ever, nearly as high as the record of 1.984 million barrels a day at the end of September.

Experts say that is likely to continue as long as the two benchmarks are going their separate ways. Even as crude supplies remain high in the U.S., weighing on prices, Brent prices have moved more on growing geopolitical risks that could disrupts supplies.

"Generally speaking our view is that Brent is much more susceptible to any sort of short-haul market impact from what's going on in Northern Iraq," John Saucer, vice president of research and analysis at Mobius Risk Group, said of clashes between Iraq and the semiautonomous region of Kurdistan.

Signs that the global glut of oil is shrinking have also lifted Brent. People familiar with the matter said Wednesday that Saudi Arabia and Russia want to extend their agreement to limit production through the end of 2018.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries -- of which Saudi Arabia is the largest member -- and some other major producers like Russia first agreed late last year to cap their production at around 1.8 million barrels a day lower than peak October 2016 levels, with the aim of alleviating global oversupply and boosting prices.

The deal, which was extended in May through March 2018, is expected to be a key topic of debate at OPEC's next official meeting in Vienna in November.

Summer Said contributed to this article.

Write to Alison Sider at alison.sider@wsj.com and Christopher Alessi at christopher.alessi@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 25, 2017 16:38 ET (20:38 GMT)