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US Crude Prices Fall on Surging Fuel Stockpiles

January 16, 2019 at 16:15 by Andrew Moran

US crude oil futures are tumbling midweek after the US government reported a bigger-than-expected decline in domestic inventories. But falling oil prices are being driven by the surge in gasoline stockpiles, leaving investors worried about slumping domestic and global demand.

February West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil futures shed $0.33, or 0.63%, to $51.78 per barrel at 14:49 GMT on Wednesday on the New York Mercantile Exchange. US crude prices have had a great start to 2019, soaring more than 13% year-to-date.

Brent, the international benchmark for oil prices, is also in the red in the middle of the trading week. March Brent crude futures dipped $0.24, or 0.4%, to $60.40 a barrel on London’s ICE Futures exchange. Brent prices have also risen about 12% YTD.

According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), domestic crude inventories decreased by 2.7 million barrels for the week ending January 11, which is a lot higher than the median estimates of 250,000 barrels. Gasoline stockpiles climbed by 7.5 million barrels, while distillate supplies advanced three million barrels.

The Baker Hughes total oil rig count stood at 873, down from 877 a week ago.

In a separate report on Tuesday, the EIA said that it expects US production levels to top 12 million barrels per day (bpd) sometime this year, adding that the US will be a net crude exporter by the end of next year.

Analysts are warning that this bullish outlook on the US energy sector could impact international oil markets over the next two years because major Organization for Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) members and non-members have been slashing supplies. This trend could put pressure on prices, leading to speculation that the oil cartel would need to impose deeper cuts on output.

Meanwhile, economic slowdowns around the world, particularly in China, could affect demand, which might allow prices to stay in check.

In other energy markets, March natural gas futures added $0.10, or 3.11%, to $3.35 per million British thermal units (btu). March gasoline futures slid $0.02, or 1.45%, to $1.40 per gallon. February heating oil futures were flat at $1.87 a gallon.

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