Oil Gains on Mixed Inventory Data

By Alison Sider and Stephanie YangFeaturesDow Jones Newswires

Oil prices gained on Wednesday after data showed the amount of oil in storage fell by more than analysts and traders had expected.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration reported that crude inventories fell by 6.5 million barrels in the week ended Aug. 4, more than double analyst expectations for a 2.7 million barrel decline.

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U.S. crude futures settled up 39 cents, or 0.8%, at $49.56 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent, the global benchmark rose 56 cents, or 1.1%, to $52.70 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe.

Taken as a sign that the global oil glut is easing, the steady depletion of crude inventories has pushed prices higher over the past month. Stockpiles have fallen for the sixth straight week.

"We've now sort of crossed a threshold," said John Saucer, vice president of research and analysis at Mobius Risk Group. "It was another good report. It extended the streak of U.S. crude stock draws."

However, oil prices fluctuated between gains and losses throughout the day, as a build in gasoline stockpiles raised concerns about fuel demand as the summer wanes. The amount of gasoline in storage unexpectedly rose by 3.4 million barrels as refiners continued to churn out fuel at high rates.

"Gasoline is a double blinking light for the whole complex," said Bob Yawger, director of the futures division at Mizuho Securities USA. "They're making a lot of gasoline -- they're using a lot of crude, but at the same time, they're making a crazy amount of product."

U.S. refinery utilization rose to 96.3% last week, and refiners churned nearly 17.6 million barrels of oil into fuel. But demand ebbed from the previous week's record high.

Traders and analysts had expected stockpiles of products to fall as the summer season prompted drivers to consume more fuel while traveling.

"At the end of the day, that's a bit of a counter," Mr. Saucer said. "And that may explain why we weren't off to the races, so to speak, when the numbers came out."

Oil prices have been stuck in a tight range this month, hovering below $50 a barrel as investors try to gauge how much the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries will be able to influence global supply.

Earlier this week, Saudi Arabia -- OPEC's largest member and the world's biggest crude producer -- and other deal participants such as Russia, implored Iraq, the United Arab Emirates and others to better conform to the output cuts agreed upon last year.

However, the meeting ended with little impact on the market. Participants remain skeptical that members of the deal will be able to adhere to the planned reductions in output, especially as those exempt from the agreement, including Libya and Nigeria, increase production.

Meanwhile, traders are keeping a close eye on production levels in the U.S. As prices have risen, U.S. shale has responded by increasing output more quickly than many expected this year. Concerns that U.S. producers will once again lock in prices on oil gains have keep U.S. futures subdued, analysts said.

Gasoline futures settled near flat at $1.6200 a gallon and diesel futures rose 1.5% to $1.6533 a gallon.

--Christopher Alessi contributed to this article.

Write to Alison Sider at alison.sider@wsj.com and Stephanie Yang at stephanie.yang@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

August 09, 2017 17:03 ET (21:03 GMT)