Jan. 18 (UPI) -- Mixed results on oil and gasoline inventory in the United States pushed the price of oil lower early Thursday, despite economic gains from China
Traders are focused intently on the balance between global supplies of oil and other petroleum products and demand. A huge surplus two years ago pushed the price of oil to historic lows and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries is now in its second year of an effort to drain the surplus with coordinated production cuts.
The American Petroleum Institute reported late Tuesday that commercial crude oil inventories in the United States dropped by close to 5.1 million barrels last week. Consumer products, however, showed a surplus. Gasoline inventories gained 1.8 million barrels.
A survey of analysts from S&P Global Platts, meanwhile, said there are expectations that U.S. crude oil inventories dropped by only 425,000 barrels, while gasoline stocks increased 2.7 million barrels.
"Solid refinery activity has been one component behind the ongoing streak of crude draws, which in turn have helped keep alive an oil rally that has lifted prices to their highest levels since December 2014," S&P Global Platts Oil Futures Editor Geoffrey Craig said in the emailed report. "At some point soon, U.S. crude stocks should start building because of winter maintenance, and when that happens, selling pressure could emerge."
The price for Brent crude oil was down 0.39 percent at 9:10 a.m. EST to $69.11 per barrel. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark for the price of oil, was down 0.16 percent to $63.87 per barrel.
Crude oil prices are up nearly 4 percent since the start of the year, prompting concerns that U.S. shale oil operators could expand their activity. Total U.S. crude oil production is already expected to break a record at 10 million barrels per day this year.
Formal U.S. data on supplies is published midway through the morning by the Energy Information Administration. In its market report for January, OPEC economists said its total crude oil production for the year should average 33.1 million barrels per day, about 200,000 barrels per day more than last year, which was 600,000 barrels per day more than in 2016.
The supply and demand metrics follow data from China, the second-largest economy in the world, showing gross domestic product expanded 6.9 percent from 2016, beating expectations by about 0.2 percent.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics, it's the first time annual growth has improved in seven years.
"Major macroeconomic indicators all beat market expectations, pointing to economic stabilization," Ning Jizhe, the head of the NBS, was quoted by the official Xinhua News Agency reported.