Crude pares gains after hitting four-month high

The price of crude has broken above $100 a barrel again today after government data showed supplies falling at Cushing, Oklahoma, the price-settlement point for crude futures.

By mid-afternoon in New York, US crude oil futures for March were trading up only 0.2% at $100.15 a barrel, after being as high as $101.39, a rise of more than 1%, earlier in the trading day.

As far as inventories of crude oil and distillate fuel, today’s report from the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) was a similar story to the week before: crude inventories continue to rise, increasing 3.3 million barrels last week with total supplies in the upper half of the average range for this time of year, while distillate fuel inventories fell again, dropping 0.7 million barrels to a level described by the EIA as ‘well below’ the lower limit of the average for this time of year. Gasoline stocks fell as well, declining 1.9 million barrels, despite an increase in gasoline production.

Stockpiles at Cushing fell 2.67 million barrels to 37.6 million barrels, the lowest level since November, with the Keystone XL pipeline clearly starting to make an impact in alleviating the glut at Cushing by increasing distribution levels to the gulf coast.

Today's news has been generally supportive for oil, with China releasing trade data showing record imports of oil. This saw oil futures up 1% already by the time of the release of the EIA report. The dropping supplies at Cushing revealed in the report was the initial focus for investors which saw the price advance to the day's high, hitting the higest level since last October, but the price eased off substantially as the market weighed up the bearish aspect of another sizeable increase in overall supplies of oil in the US.

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