Oil prices ends day and week higher as EIA report shows bigger-than-expected crude drop

Oil prices ends day and week higher as EIA report shows bigger-than-expected crude drop

EIA report shows U.S. crude supplies fall by 5.467 million in the week ended Dec. 20

Crude oil prices edged higher Friday and finished a holiday-shortened week near a three-month peak, after a report showed a bigger-than-expected decline in U.S. stores of crude and its byproducts.

The Energy Information Administration reported that U.S. crude supplies fell by 5.467 million barrels for the week ended Dec. 20. Analysts polled by S&P Global Platts had forecast a decrease of 3 million barrels, although the less closely followed American Petroleum Institute report showed a 7.9 million-barrel tumble late Tuesday, according to sources.

EIA data also showed supply increases of 1.963 million barrels for gasoline stocks and a decline of roughly 152,000 barrels for distillates.

U.S. energy reports were delayed this week due to the Christmas holiday.

West Texas Intermediate crude for February delivery US:CLF20, the U.S. benchmark grade, rose 4 cents, or less than 0.1%, to end at $61.72 a barrel in up-and-down trade on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The slight gains, however, helped the most-active contract hold around its highest price since Sept. 16, according to Dow Jones Market Data, with a weekly gain of about 2.1%.

February Brent crude BRNG20, +0.06%, meanwhile, added 24 cents, or 0.4%, at $68.16 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe, following a 1.1% gain in the prior session. That contract expires on Dec. 30. The March contract BRNH20, -0.09%, which is currently the most active, added 11 cents, or 0.2%, at $66.87 a barrel. For the week, Brent’s February contract climbed 3.7%, while March Brent rose 2.6% in the week to date.

Both Brent oil and WTI have risen for four consecutive weeks.

Phil Flynn, senior market analyst at The Price Futures Group, said that the EIA inventory data reflect refiners, who process crude, ramping up activity and helping to take down supplies.

“It looks like refiners are back…” Flynn told MarketWatch. “So very supportive!”

All that said, market participants also were digesting a report signaling that the group known as OPEC+, including members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies like Russia, may consider ending a pact to reduce global production next year.

“As far as the production cuts are concerned, I repeat once again, this is not an indefinite process. A decision on the exit should be gradually taken in order to keep up market share and so that our companies would be able to provide and implement their future projects,” said Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak, according to Reuters on Friday, citing Russia broadcaster Rossiya 24 TV.

The report comes days after Novak was quoted as saying that OPEC+ may consider easing output restrictions at a meeting in March.

Earlier this month, OPEC and its allies agreed to officially cut production by 500,000 barrels per day on top of its current reduction agreement, beginning in January. Those additional reductions were meant to take total output cuts for OPEC+ to 1.7 million barrels day, including the current cuts of 1.2 million barrels a day from October 2018 levels that was put into place in January 2019.

Separately, a weekly report from Baker Hughes BKR, -0.27% indicated that the number of active U.S. rigs drilling for oil fell by 8 to 677 this week, marking the first decline of the past three weeks. The total active U.S. rig count also fell by 8 to 805.

Meanwhile, January natural gas NGF20, -3.66% was off 13.6 cents, or 5.9%, at $2.1580 per million British thermal units, marking its steepest one-day skid since Nov. 29. For the week, natural gas shed 7.3%, representing its sharpest weekly decline also since late November.

A separate EIA report on Friday showed that domestic supplies of natural gas fell by 161 billion cubic feet for the week ended Dec. 20. Analysts had expected a drop of 150 to 153 bcf, according to market experts. Total stocks now stand at 3.250 trillion cubic feet, up 518 bcf from a year ago. The five-year average stands at 3,319 bcf, down 69 bcf, according to the government report.

In other energy trade, February gasoline futures RBF20, -0.50% shed 0.5% to end at $1.7447 a gallon, producing a weekly decline of 2.2%. February heating oil HOF20, -0.14%, meanwhile, gave up less than 0.1%, to settle at $2.0519 a gallon. For the week, heating oil gained 1.5%.

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