Oil prices level in what seems to be mixed inventory data

Traders on Tuesday may be standing idle ahead of what could be a pivotal OPEC meeting next week.
By Daniel J. Graeber  |  Nov. 21, 2017 at 10:19 AM
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Nov. 21 (UPI) -- A mixed bag for levels of oil and gasoline in the world's largest economy, and anticipation over OPEC's next meeting, left oil prices flat early Tuesday.

The American Petroleum Institute releases its data on U.S. oil and gasoline storage levels after the market closes on Tuesday. Official data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration comes midway through the trading morning Wednesday.

Ahead of those, commodity pricing group S&P Global Platts said its survey of analysts found gasoline stocks might show a gain of 1 million barrels, while crude oil inventories declined by 2.1 million barrels. That matters for traders looking at the balance between supply and demand because the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries is working to drain the surplus in the five-year average for oil inventories using coordinated production declines.

That effort, however, has been offset somewhat by production gains in the United States and an increase in U.S. oil exports, the latter of which has been supported by the lower price for West Texas Intermediate relative to other benchmarks.

"Total crude stocks fell by 17.9 million barrels over six weeks ending October 27, representing counter-seasonal declines that cut the surplus to the five-year average from 25 percent to just under 15 percent," the survey summary read. "Inventories have built by 4 million barrels over the last two weeks to 459 million barrels, in line with historical norms, keeping the surplus to the five-year average at between 14 and 15 percent."

The price for Brent crude oil, the global benchmark, was down 0.08 percent at 9:15 a.m. EST to $62.17 per barrel. WTI, the U.S. benchmark, was up 0.11 percent to $56.48 per barrel.

Some volatility in prices may be expected because of the closure of the Keystone pipeline network in North America. It spilled 5,000 barrels of oil last week in South Dakota, though the shutdown leaves oil backed up in Canada.

For the balancing effort, OPEC ministers meet next week to consider the fate of an agreement credited with putting a $50 per barrel floor under crude oil prices. Doubts surfaced over an extension last week when Russia, the largest non-OPEC contributor, was seemingly on the fence, with ministers saying the current market condition was favorable.

On Tuesday, Russian news agency Tass reported that more Russian oil may find its way to Uzbekistan through Kazakhstan, a strong producer in its own right. According to the report, Uzbekistan wants another 7.3 million barrels and an additional 22 million barrels after 2020.

Russian crude oil production is up 1.8 percent from January. Total crude oil exports are up 5 percent since the beginning of the year.

Elsewhere, geopolitical factors could add a risk premium oil prices as the day progresses. Preliminary reports from Kurdish news agency Rudaw put the death toll from a car bomb in the north of Iraq at 20 people. The region has experienced sporadic outbreaks of violence since liberation from the Islamic State in October.

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