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Oil Prices Inch Lower As Crude Inventories Continue To Build

The Energy Information Administration reported a crude oil inventory build of 2.4 million barrels for the week to March 12, up/down from a build of 13.8 million barrels the authority reported for the previous week.

A day earlier, the American Petroleum Institute surprised markets by estimating an oil inventory decline for the same week, of 1 million barrels.

Hefty builds in both crude and fuel inventories were expected in the past three weeks after the wave of Arctic weather that swept across Texas prompted refinery closures and stocking up of oil, gasoline and distillates.

In gasoline, the EIA reported an inventory increase for last week, at half a million barrels. This compared with a draw of as much as 11.9 million barrels for the previous week. Gasoline production stood at 8.9 million bpd last week, compared with 9 million bpd a week earlier.

In middle distillates, the energy authority reported an inventory build of 300,000 barrels for the week to March 12. This compared with a decline of 5.5 million barrels for the previous week, the second large weekly draw in a row, after a 9.7-million-barrel decline in inventories in the first week of March. Middle distillate production averaged 4.2 million bpd last week, compared with 3.7 million bpd a week earlier.

Refinery processing rates averaged 13.4 million bpd last week, versus 12.3 million bpd a week earlier, operating at 76.1 percent of capacity.

Oil prices, meanwhile, are on a retreat as more countries in Europe suspend the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine on blood clotting concerns, pushing back further Europe’s return to normal. Record vaccination rates in the United States have not been enough to arrest the slide amid continued warnings from medical experts that the U.S. is not out of the woods and any premature relaxation in movement restrictions could lead to another spike in new infections.

At the time of writing, Brent crude was trading at $68.03 a barrel, with West Texas Intermediate at $64.55 a barrel.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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