Crude sinks to three-month low

Further evidence of rising US crude output alongside tepid demand has depressed the price of oil today.

Hot on the heels of delayed inventory data earlier in the week, we had the latest petroleum status report from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) today, which showed a bigger-than-expected rise in the US crude stockpile. That sent the price of US light crude tumbling to its lowest level since the beginning of July.

Towards the end of the pit-traded session in New York, crude oil futures for December had pared some of their losses, but were still down more than 1% for the day at $97.15 a barrel. The contract had slumped as much as a dollar lower earlier in the trading day.

The EIA reported that crude inventories increased by 5.25 million barrels last week, surging far in excess of the 3 million-barrel rise that had been forecast by economists polled by Bloomberg. Monday’s report showed an increase in supplies held at Cushing, Oklahoma, the price settlement point for US crude oil futures, and it was the same story in today’s report, with inventories at Cushing rising 358,000 barrels.

This suggests that improvements in the distribution network out of Cushing have not completely sorted out the crude log-jam and we are once again seeing a glut start to build there, which is a bearish sign.

The data also showed output expanding 6.3% to 7.9 million barrels a day, the highest rate of US production in 24 years. Refinery utilisation continues to fall, with run rates dropping to 85.9% of capacity, a six-month low. Total petroleum demand sunk to 18.3 million barrels a day, representing a 3.8% decline.

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