Oil prices sink on last trading day of the year

Oil prices move modestly lower to end the year as investors take stock of supply and demand factors in the United States. File photo by Monika Graff/UPI

NEW YORK, Dec. 30 (UPI) — A slight build in U.S. crude oil inventories and an overall yearly gain in stockpiles helped send oil prices lower on the last trading day for 2016.

Data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration show crude oil inventories in the United States increased 614,000 barrels during the week ending Dec. 23. That compares with a draw forecast by S&P Global Platts of 1.5 million barrels.

Platts reported that the main driver behind the buildup in stockpiles was a slowdown in overall refinery activity, despite a draw on gasoline stocks and higher exports of petroleum products.

The price for Brent crude oil, now in the March contract, was down 0.5 percent to start trading Friday at $56.54 per barrel. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark price for oil, lost 0.5 percent to open the day at $53.49 per barrel.

Brent crude oil prices are up more than 50 percent year-on-year in response to rebalancing in an oil market that had been characterized by oversupply. A decision to cut production from members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, with the help of large producers like Russia, is meant to correct that oversupply.

Platts analysis finds U.S. crude oil inventories are up 6.8 percent still from last year. OPEC’s maneuver put a floor under crude oil prices of around $50 per barrel, but may be encouraging operators in expensive U.S. shale basins to return to work.

A survey released by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas found most respondents were anticipating an increase in spending on exploration and production in 2017. Michael D. Plante, a senior economist for the bank, said the outlook in the No. 1 oil state in the United States has “improved significantly.”

Oil prices could be influenced later in the day after oilfield services company Baker Hughes publishes rig count data from last week. An increase would serve as a loose measure to gauge the accuracy of Plante’s sentiments.

U.S. markets are closed Monday to mark the New Year holiday.


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