Oil rises 1.6% to 6-week high, closing at $47.12, after big drop in US crude, gas stockpiles

Key Points
  • U.S. commercial crude inventories fell by 4.7 million barrels in the week to July 14, compared with analysts estimates for a 3.2 million barrel decline.
  • Gasoline stocks also fell more than anticipated, dropping by 4.4 million barrels.
  • Rising output from OPEC producers fed concerns about a persistent overhang of excess crude.
Crude oil inventories down 4.7 million barrels
Crude oil inventories down 4.7 million barrels

Oil prices jumped more than 1 percent on Wednesday after a U.S. report showed a bigger weekly draw than forecast in crude and gasoline stocks along with a surprise drop in distillate inventories.

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) said U.S. crude stocks fell 4.7 million barrels during the week ended July 14. , exceeding estimates for a 3.2 million draw in a Reuters poll.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures ended the session 72 cents, or 1.6 percent, higher at $47.12 per barrel, the best closing price since June 6.

Brent crude futures, the international benchmark for oil prices, were up 84 cents, or 1.7 percent, at $49.68 per barrel by 2:35 p.m. ET (1835 GMT).

"The report was more good news for the oil industry as inventories declined across the board for crude and products by over 10 million barrels," Andrew Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates in Houston said.

EIA said distillate stocks decreased 2.1 million barrels and gasoline stocks declined 4.4 million barrels. Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast a 1.2 million barrel build in distillates and a 0.7 million barrel draw in gasoline.

These charts show why crude could drive the next rally: Technician
These charts show why crude could drive the next rally: Technician

U.S. distillates were up 2.8 percent and gasoline futures rose 2.5 percent, briefly boosting the products crack spread, a measure of refinery margins, to its highest since November 2016.

The drawdown occurred even as EIA said U.S. production climbed to 9.43 million barrels per day (bpd), its highest since July 2015. Analysts said rising U.S. production has made it harder for OPEC and other producing nations to support prices with their own output cuts.

"U.S. crude output has maintained its upward trajectory despite oil prices remaining below $50 a barrel," said Abhishek Kumar, Senior Energy Analyst at Interfax Energy's Global Gas Analytics in London. He said this "poses serious questions on the effectiveness of the output cut deal agreed upon by OPEC and some non-OPEC countries."

Supplies from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries also remain high, largely due to rising output from member states Nigeria and Libya, casting a shadow on efforts by the group to rebalance the market.

"Production in Libya is currently reported at or above 1 million barrels per day, while August loading schedules for Nigeria have risen to just over 2 million barrels per day," BNP Paribas said.

A Saudi Arabian industry source said on Tuesday that the kingdom, by far OPEC's biggest producer, was committed to tightening the market.

Crude rallies on supply data
Crude rallies on supply data

"We hope to accommodate the rise in production from Libya and Nigeria taking into consideration other supply adjustments as well. But we emphasize that we have to work together with other producers and with the two countries," the source said.

Nigeria and Libya are exempt from a deal between OPEC and other producers, including Russia, to cut production by around 1.8 million barrels per day between January this year and March 2018.

"Talk of capping Nigerian and Libyan output has been growing fast (within OPEC). But it is very unlikely that both countries will acquiesce to a cap so soon after restoring production," BNP said.

Russia is ready to continue working with OPEC to help rebalance oil markets, a Russian energy source said on Wednesday, adding that Moscow welcomed a flexible approach by OPEC's leader Saudi Arabia to accommodate rising output from Nigeria and Libya.

Crude prices are down around 12 percent this year, making oil one of the worst-performing commodities in 2017.

— CNBC's Tom DiChristopher contributed to this report.