Crude oil prices inched higher on Wednesday morning after the Energy Information Administration reported an inventory build of 500,000 barrels for the week to February 21. Gasoline stockpiles, however, fell considerably, and so did distillate fuel inventories.
The EIA said that at 443.3 million barrels, crude oil inventories were below the five-year seasonal average.
A day earlier, the American Petroleum Institute reported a smaller than expected inventory build, which helped prices recoup some of their latest losses but wasn’t enough to reverse the decline set off by the latest spike in coronavirus-related fears.
Analysts had expected an inventory build of 2.467 million barrels, after last week the EIA reported a build of 400,000 barrels for the second week of February.
For the third week of February, the EIA also reported a substantial draw in gasoline inventories, after another build, of 2 million barrels for the previous week. Production of gasoline averaged 9.8 million bpd in the week to February 21, compared with 9.5 million bpd a week earlier.
The EIA also said distillate fuel inventories had shed 2.1 million barrels last week, after they posted a decline of 600,000 barrels during the previous week. Production of distillate fuels averaged 4.8 million bpd last week, down from 4.9 million bpd a week earlier.
Oil prices fell to a two-week low yesterday, with West Texas Intermediate slipping below $50 a barrel as the spread of the coronavirus, dubbed Covid-19, outside China sparked a new wave of fears and oil demand concern.
“The spread of the COVID-19 virus continues to dominate market direction, overshadowing all over factors in the current environment,” commodity analyst Robbie Fraser from Schneider Electric said in a note. “Particularly concerning of late is the virus’ spread outside of China, with confirmed cases in several key oil producing states including Oman, as well as a significant number of cases in Iran.”
At the time of writing, WTI was trading at $50.05 a barrel, with Brent crude at $54.05 a barrel, both virtually unchanged from the opening of trade.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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