U.S. crude oil stockpiles probably rose for a second week in the week ended Jan. 2, according to a Bloomberg News survey before an Energy Department report today. Traders are seeking as many as 10 supertankers to store crude, according to Frontline Ltd., the largest owner of the vessels, suggesting demand for oil remains weak.
Oil for February delivery declined as much as 97 cents, or 2 percent, to $47.61 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract traded at $48.01 at 1:16 p.m. London time.
Yesterday, crude reached a five-week high because of the conflict between Israel and Hamas, Russia’s gas dispute with Ukraine, and signs that OPEC members are enacting supply cuts. It later fell as manufacturing data indicated the U.S. recession is deepening.
Crude briefly surged to $49.09 a barrel today as the International Energy Agency said it is very concerned” about the escalation of the gas dispute between Russia and Ukraine and urged an immediate restart to European supplies.
Iran, the Middle East’s second largest oil exporter, will trim exports to two refiners in Asia in February, officials from the companies said today, to conform with OPEC’s Dec. 17 decision to curb supplies. Other members including Kuwait, Qatar, Libya and the United Arab Emirates have given similar notices.
The U.S. Energy Department is scheduled to release its weekly report at 10:30 a.m. today in Washington.
U.S. crude oil stockpiles probably increased 900,000 barrels in the week ended Jan. 2, from 318.7 million the week before, according to the median forecast of 10 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News.
Supplies of distillate fuel, a category that includes heating oil and diesel, probably increased 1.1 million barrels from 136 million barrels. Refineries probably operated at 82.5 percent of capacity, unchanged from the week before, when they ran at the lowest since the period ended Oct. 10 because of damage caused by Hurricanes Gustav and Ike.
Gasoline inventories rose 1 million barrels from 208.1 million, according to the survey. It would be the fifth consecutive weekly gain. Gasoline supplies have risen in 12 out of the past 14 weeks.
U.S. gasoline consumption fell 3.5 percent last week to a two-month low as the U.S. recession reduced demand, a MasterCard Inc. report showed.