oil stocks rise, sales of strategic reserves halted

New York (awp/afp) – Weekly US commercial crude inventories rose sharply from last week, which was disrupted by the aftermath of a winter storm as the government all but stops drawing down its strategic reserves.

According to figures released Wednesday by the US Energy Information Agency (EIA), commercial inventories rose by 19 million barrels in the week ended January 6.

The data surprised analysts who, on average, were betting on a fall in inventories of 2 million barrels, according to a consensus established by the Bloomberg agency.

A recovery in refinery activity, hampered at the end of December by the storm Elliott, a sharp drop in exports and a drop in demand explain this solid recovery in crude oil stocks, which amounted to 439.6 million barrels.

Additionally, for the first time in nearly 18 months, the government barely dipped into its strategic reserves, drawing just 800,000 barrels.

After drawing more than 200 million barrels from these reserves to combat the rise in crude oil prices, the US administration is trying to rebuild these strategic stocks, which stand at 371.6 million barrels.

The market reacted to these figures with an acceleration in the rise in oil prices.

The actual cessation of using strategic reserves drove prices up because this implies a decrease in supply.

Around. At 17:00 GMT, crude oil prices accelerated their rise. A barrel of Brent North Sea for March delivery rose 3.11% to $82.59, and West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for February delivery rose 3.09% to $77.45.

“Sales of strategic reserves helped fill the supply gap last year, but now refiners are looking for an alternative supply. This is a contributing factor to higher prices, with the opening of China,” said Andy Lipow of Lipow Oil Associates.

According to him, it could be worth 5 to 7 dollars more per barrel to stop the use of strategic reserves.

Gasoline inventories also rose by 4.1 million barrels last week, more than analysts expected (+750,000).

Distillates (fuel oil, diesel) fell by 1.1 million barrels, close to analysts’ expectations.

Due to the cold, refinery capacity utilization had dropped to 79.6% at the end of December, then recovered last week to 84.1%, which is “still very low,” noted Andy Lipow.

“We also had a strong build-up in gasoline stocks because people stayed home because of the bad weather,” the analyst explained.

Overall, US crude oil production rose very slightly to 12.2 million barrels per day (+100,000 barrels) last week. Exports were halved to 2.1 million bpd.

As for demand, it fell by 563,000 barrels per day to 17.6 million bpd.


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