By Barani Krishnan
Investing.com – To oil bulls, the pesky build in U.S. crude stocks just refuses to go away.
Crude stockpiles rose for a fifth time in six weeks, the Energy Information Administration’s Weekly Petroleum Status Report for Oct. 29 showed.
The build boosted crude inventories by some 20 million barrels over the past six weeks and suggested that prices at seven-year highs were slowing purchases by refiners buying the material to make fuel products such as gasoline and diesel.
Analysts tracked by Investing.com had expected crude stocks to build by just around 2.25 million barrels in the latest week.
For refiners, taking delivery of deferred crude instead of prompt may make more economical sense now, given the ‘backwardated’ state of crude markets where longer-dated contracts traded at a discount to the front month.
The refinery utilization rate for last week remained at below 90% to capacity.
”Refiners are certainly contributing to the crude build by trying to lock in barrels for later delivery at a more economical rate,” said John Kilduff, founding partner at Again Capital, an energy hedge fund in New York.
The latest crude build came despite crude imports dropping by 83,000 barrels daily last week, or a net 5.8 million on the week. Exports, meanwhile, picked up by 138,000 barrels per day or almost 10 million.
The Cushing, Oklahoma crude storage hub saw a near 1.0 million-barrel drop, hitting a new three-year low. Together, these should have taken the total crude inventory down, but yet there was a build.
The EIA also raised its U.S. crude production estimate to 11.5 million barrels per day last week, from a previous 11.3 million. While it was not a big upward revision, it added to the bearish theme of the market.
West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. crude benchmark, was down $2.71, or 3.2%, at $81.20 per barrel by 1:01 PM ET (17:07 GMT). WTI hit seven-year highs above $85 last week.
London-traded Brent crude, the global benchmark for oil, was down $2.39, or 2.8%, at $82.33. Brent hit $86.70 last week, nearing the key $90 sought by market bulls.
On the fuel products side, distillates, which include diesel, saw their first build in 10 weeks, growing by 2.16 million barrels versus forecasts for a draw of 1.25 million.
To offset the distillates build, gasoline drew down by 1.49 million barrels versus an expected decline of just 1.25 million. Gasoline inventories have fallen by a total of 11 million barrels over the past four weeks.
Notwithstanding Wednesday’s tumble, crude prices should receive another boost on Thursday when producer group OPEC+ holds its monthly meeting to deny the plea by consuming countries for more supply.
“Big Daddy OPEC will return tomorrow to be the killjoy for oil bears; you can count on that,” quipped Kilduff.
The 26-nation OPEC+ alliance — which bands the 13-member Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and their 10 allies — is refusing to raise production by any more than 400,000 barrels daily under a pact made earlier in the year. But that was before a spike in demand raised market requirements for crude by at least a million barrels daily, say energy market experts.
(With additional reporting by Sam Boughedda)