Wildfires in oil-rich Canadian province of Alberta send rally in crude oil prices into overdrive, with major indices posting gains of more than 4 percent. File photo by Monika Graff/UPI | License Photo
WASHINGTON, May 5 (UPI) -- Wildfires raging in the oil-rich Canadian province of Alberta overwhelmed supply-side data and U.S. employment figures, pushing oil higher early Thursday.
More than 80,000 people have been evacuated from a municipality in Alberta and operations from some oil installations there are curtailed. The provincial leader in Alberta said the best thing citizens can do to help with the effort is to offer donations to the Red Cross.
Fires in Fort McMurray are near the center of Alberta oil sands operations, which, outside of Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, represent the third largest deposits of oil in the world.
Crude oil prices moved sharply higher in response to the Alberta wildfires. The price for Brent crude oil was up 4.1 percent to $46.45 per barrel. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark price for crude oil, was up 4.5 percent to $45.76 per barrel.
The rally ignored U.S. unemployment data that would have otherwise influenced energy prices as a metric of demand. The U.S. Labor Department reported the seasonally adjusted first-time claims for unemployment protection was up 17,000 for the week ending April 30. The four-week moving average, a less-volatile gauge for first-time filings, moved up 2,000.
Labor Department data show unemployment gains in Texas, North Dakota and Alaska, among the largest oil producers in the United States. Nevertheless, U.S. labor remains healthy as the number of claims has stayed below 3,000 for 61 straight weeks, the longest streak in more than 40 years.
Data published earlier this week from the U.S. Energy Information Administration show supply-side pressures lingering in the American economy. Commercial crude oil inventories moved up by 2.8 million barrels from last year and motor gasoline inventories increased by 500,000 barrels, "well above the upper limit of the average range," the report said.
The United States last week imported 110,000 barrels of oil per day more than it did the previous week and the four-week average for imports is 8.4 percent higher than last year.