(XOM) U.S. Crude Oil and Fuel Inventories Rise

The U.S. Energy Department’s weekly inventory release showed a surprise build-up in crude stockpiles following three consecutive weeks of decline. The agency’s report further revealed that both gasoline and distillate stocks added to their supplies, while refiners reduced processing rates by 0.5%.

The Energy Information Administration (“EIA”) Petroleum Status Report – which contains data for the previous week ending Friday, outlines information regarding the weekly change in petroleum inventories held and produced by the U.S., both locally and abroad.

The report provides an overview of the level of reserves and their movements, thereby helping investors understand the demand/supply dynamics of petroleum products. It is an indicator of current oil prices and volatility that affect businesses of companies engaged in the oil and refining industry, such as ExxonMobil (XOM), Chevron Corp. (CVX), ConocoPhillips (COP), Valero (VLO) and Tesoro (TSO).

Crude Oil

The federal government’s EIA report revealed that crude inventories rose by 1.92 million barrels for the week ending September 23, 2011, after registering the largest weekly drop this year in the preceding week.

Analysts surveyed by Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill Companies Inc. (MHP), had expected oil stocks to be unchanged. A drop in refinery utilization and higher imports led to the stockpile build-up with the world’s biggest oil consumer.

However, crude inventories at the Cushing terminal in Oklahoma – the key delivery hub for U.S. crude futures – came off 1.08 million barrels from last week’s level to 30.9 million barrels, its lowest since March 2010. Stocks reached an all-time high of 41.90 million barrels earlier this year.

At 340.96 million barrels, current crude supplies are 4.7% lower than the year-earlier level, but are just above the upper limit of the average for this time of the year. The crude supply cover was up from 22.2 days in the previous week to 22.4 days. In the year-ago period, the supply cover was 24.0 days.

Gasoline

Supplies of gasoline increased for the fifth time in six weeks on the back of improved production, partially offset by lower import levels and stronger demand. The 791,000 barrels-build – less than projections – took gasoline stockpiles up to 214.87 million barrels. The existing inventory level is 3.5% below the year-earlier levels, but is above the upper half of the average range.

Distillate

Distillate fuel inventories (including diesel and heating oil) inched up by 72,000 barrels last week, compared with analyst expectations for a much larger build. The increase in distillate fuel supplies can be attributed to weaker demand and higher production. At 157.68 million barrels, distillate supplies are 9.2% lower than the year-ago level, but are in the upper boundary of the average range at this time of the year.

Refinery Rates

Refinery utilization was down 0.5% from the prior week to 87.8%. Analysts were expecting the refinery run rate to decrease 1.0% to 87.3%.

CONOCOPHILLIPS (COP): Free Stock Analysis Report

CHEVRON CORP (CVX): Free Stock Analysis Report

MCGRAW-HILL COS (MHP): Free Stock Analysis Report

TESORO CORP (TSO): Free Stock Analysis Report

VALERO ENERGY (VLO): Free Stock Analysis Report

EXXON MOBIL CRP (XOM): Free Stock Analysis Report

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