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Futures Movers: U.S. oil prices end below $70 as domestic gasoline supplies jump, fuel demand falls

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U.S. oil futures logged a a modest loss on Wednesday, to finish below the $70 mark following data that showed domestic crude inventories down a third-straight week, but gasoline stockpiles up by seven million barrels.

Gasoline futures led the percentage losses among major energy futures for the session, as data also revealed that implied demand for the fuel edged lower for the week.

As refining activity continues to climb, “U.S. oil inventories cannot help but draw,” Matt Smith, director of commodity research at ClipperData, in emailed commentary. But “a dip in implied demand for both gasoline and distillate has resulted in “meaty builds” for both petroleum products, “offsetting the bullish impact” of the decline in crude supplies.

The Energy Information Administration reported on Wednesday that U.S. crude inventories fell by 5.2 million barrels for the week ended June 4.

That was larger than the average decline of 4.1 million barrels forecast by analysts polled by S&P Global Platts. The American Petroleum Institute on Tuesday reported a 2.1 million-barrel decrease, according to sources.

The EIA, however, also reported that gasoline supply climbed by 7 million barrels, while distillate stockpiles rose by 4.4 million barrels for the week. The S&P Global Platts survey had expected smaller weekly supply gains of 1 million barrels for gasoline and 400,000 barrels for distillates.

West Texas Intermediate crude for July delivery
CL00,
-0.44%

CLN21,
-0.44%

fell 9 cents, or 0.1%, to settle at $69.96 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. WTI ended Tuesday above $70, at its highest since October 2018, based on the front-month contracts,

August Brent crude
BRN00,
-0.25%

BRNQ21,
-0.25%
,
the global benchmark, settled at $72.22 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe, unchanged from Tuesday which saw the highest finish since May 2019.

Among the petroleum products on Nymex Wednesday, July gasoline
RBN21,
-1.04%

declined by 0.7% to $2.20 a gallon, while July heating oil
HON21,
-0.50%

tacked shed 0.3% to $2.13 a gallon.

The EIA data also showed crude stocks at the Cushing, Okla., storage hub edged up by 200,000 barrels to 45.7 million barrels for the week. The amount of finished motor gasoline supplies, a proxy for demand, meanwhile, fell by 666,000 barrels a day to 8.48 million barrels a day.

Phil Flynn, senior market analyst at The Price Futures Group, believes the implied demand data was “skewed” due to the Colonial Pipeline issues last month.


“The death of gasoline demand is greatly exaggerated.”


— Phil Flynn, The Price Futures Group

“People bought gas early and you had a flood of imports from Europe and supply moving around” because of the waivers to the Jones Act as a result of temporary shutdown of the pipeline, he told MarketWatch.

“The death of gasoline demand is greatly exaggerated,” Flynn said.

Oil prices on Tuesday had finished higher as economic reopening efforts across in much of the world in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic fed expectations for a continued improvement in energy demand.

“Demand optimism continues to support the complex, with global COVID-19 cases continuing to trend lower after peaking in late April,” said Warren Patterson, head of commodities strategy at ING, in a note.

“In addition, the U.S. eased its COVID-19 travel warnings for a number of countries, and while this is unlikely to lead to an immediate rebound in international travel, it is clearly a step in the right direction,” he said. “We believe that the demand outlook will remain supportive for prices as we move through the year.”

A monthly report from the EIA released Tuesday also showed higher 2021 oil-price forecasts for WTI and Brent.

Prices got an addded boost Tuesday from comments from U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken which eased concerns that a return of the Iran nuclear deal would lead to the the lifting of U.S. sanctions, allowing Iran to contribute more oil to the world market. On Tuesday, Blinken said that even if the U.S. and Iran reach a deal, “hundreds of sanctions will remain in place,” according to Reuters.

Scope for further upside, however, is limited by the more-than-6-million barrels a day of spare capacity that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, known as OPEC+, is withholding from the market, Patterson said.

Back on Nymex, July natural gas
NGN21,
+0.58%

ended little changed at $3.13 per million British thermal units, but its 0.03% was just enough to mark a fresh finish at the highest finish since February, according to Dow Jones Market Data.

The move came ahead of the EIA’s weekly data on supplies of the fuel due Thursday.

On average analysts expect the government to report a climb of 95 billion cubic feet in supplies for the week end June 4, which would come in above the five-year average build of 92 bcf, according to a poll conducted by S&P Global Platts.

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