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U.S. refiners could be helping to set the stage for another day of reckoning for oil prices.
The global crude glut has now turned into a full-fledged glut for gasoline and diesel fuel as well, even though consumers are using near-record amounts of fuel. Analysts say refinery production could be one factor that helps decide in the next several weeks whether crude breaks below its roughly $44 to $50 a barrel range — or can rise above it.
"There's a lot of crude and products out there. If you're purely looking at crude and we're developing an oversupply of product, that's going to put downward pressure on the market, which is going to make crude buying back off, which is going to be bearish. On top of that, we're just a few weeks away from lower demand due to planned refinery maintenance," said Michael Wittner, head of commodities research, Americas of Societe Generale.
Refiners have been producing near-record amounts of gasoline, and in the past week, U.S. refineries were running at 92.3 percent of capacity. Later in the summer, refineries begin to go into maintenance season to prepare for winter fuel season, creating less demand for crude.