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API Report Change Heightens Trader Curiosity

Tuesday, 27 Jan 2009 | 4:08 PM ET

We know the outlook for energy demand is dire. U.S. consumer confidence is at a record low, home values are shrinking, and the retail outlook here in the U.S. and Britain is extremely gloomy. That's a large part of the reason for today's oil price slide — down more than 8 percent to close below $42.

Not to mention the fact that Valero CEO Bill Kleese has painted such a bleak picture, that he even foresees the nation's top refiner having to shut some refineries if they're not used adequately and can't be sold. With refiners' run rates drastically down, U.S. crude supplies continue to increase — more dark clouds hanging over the energy complex.

But now, traders will have more time to parse out U.S. oil supply information as the leading trade group for the petroleum industry moves to release its weekly report on oil inventories on Tuesday afternoons, instead of at the same time as the government on Wednesday morning.

EIA Data
A look at the energy inventory data, with Ira Eckstein, Area International Trading and CNBC's Sharon Epperson

Starting this week, the American Petroleum Institute's weekly statistics will be released on inventory Tuesdays at 4:30 p.m. ET. The U.S. Energy Information Administration's petroleum report will come out Wednesdays at 10:30 a.m. ET. An API spokeswoman says the move was made to prevent the API data from impacting trading. However, electronic trading on CME Globex runs until 5:15 p.m. ET, restarts again at 6 p.m. and runs through the night.

Releasing the API numbers after the floor session ends may dull the dramatic, knee-jerk reaction we often see after the data comes out on Wednesday morning. Yet, to the extent that traders hold much faith in the government's weekly oil supply reports, even fewer traders appear to follow the API data very closely. Many traders tell me they are skeptical of the industry's data because a company's participation is voluntary. They believe the government's data seems more credible.

Still, a number of veterans of the NYMEX floor said they'll be at their computers this afternoon, waiting for the API numbers. For now, the initial time change has heightened their curiosity.

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