Crude oil fell sharply after a surprise build in USA crude and gasoline inventories despite strong demand, and as traders consider a potential increase in OPEC crude production to make up for an expected supply loss from Iran and Venezuela. At the same time, the price of Brent crude increased last Friday by 0.2%. Crude stocks at the Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery hub fell by 1.123 million barrels.
Crude imports were up by 558,000 Bbls and refiners produced less distillate fuel, which includes diesel and heating oil. The stockpile now stands at about 661 million barrels.
Gasoline stocks rose by 1.9 million barrels, compared with analysts' expectations in a Reuters poll for a 1.4 million-barrel drop. USA refineries produced about 10 million barrels of gasoline a day last week, down by about 500,000 barrels compared to the prior week.
Both of those factors, along with strong demand, have pushed oil to near-four-year highs.
July WTI crude futures settled 1.2% to $71.36/bbl while July Brent slid 1.5% to $78.39/bbl, after US crude inventories rose 5.8M barrels last week while gasoline stocks gained 1.9M barrels.
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US crude hit its highest level since 2014 on Monday amid rising concerns that Venezuela's oil output could fall further following the country's presidential election and potential sanctions on the OPEC-member nation. The collapse of Venezuela's economy and increased U.S. sanctions is likely to hamper already depressed output from the Opec member.
Domestic production edged up to 10.725 million barrels per day from 10.723 million bpd in the prior week, EIA said.
While Trump has criticized OPEC on many issues since taking office, including artificially boosting prices, his general mindset seems to be that higher prices benefit industry; and that point was reiterated by the Canadian CBC news agency, which on Wednesday stated that "Higher oil prices are doubly helpful for Canadian producers, because they are priced in US dollars, while Canadian companies book most of their expenses in Canadian dollars".
Natixis, a London-based commodity research house, says: "Due to sanctions, Iran's 2.5-300,000 barrels a day of export will not happen, which Opec (the petro exporting nations' cartel) members are likely to replace". Distillate product supplied averaged about 4.2 million barrels a day for the past four weeks, down by 1.9% compared with the same period a year ago. Later on May 23, official data on oil reserves in the country from the U.S. Energy Department will be published.
Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYSE: XOM) traded down about 0.6%, at $81.20 in a 52-week range of $72.16 to $89.30. There are very few players around and the price is nearly always controlled by investors / traders with deep pockets as any major change in silver price is always accompanied by large stakeholders disproportionately by buying or selling in very large quantities.