WTI Passes $100 Before U.S. Crude Stockpile Data; Brent Rises

Mar 25, 2014 8:23 am ET

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March 25 (Bloomberg) -- West Texas Intermediate rose above $100 a barrel before the release of data forecast to show crude stockpiles increased for a 10th week in the U.S., the world’s biggest oil consumer. Brent was higher in London.

Futures gained as much as 0.6 percent in New York. Crude supplies probably grew by 2.5 million barrels last week, a Bloomberg News survey showed before an Energy Information Administration report tomorrow. Top industrial powers threatened stiffer sanctions to deter Russian President Vladimir Putin from seizing more of Ukraine and suspended Russia from the Group of Eight. U.S. authorities plan inspection flights over the Houston Ship Channel as it remains closed after a fuel-oil spill.

“It’s still the geopolitics lurking in the background which have the potential to support the oil markets, mainly concerning Ukraine,” Ole Hansen, head of commodity strategy at Saxo Bank A/S in Copenhagen, said by phone. Changes in supply and demand don’t seem to be driving the oil market, he said. “The news we have is mostly related to the ongoing concerns that the crisis could escalate between the West and Russia.”

WTI for May delivery rose to as much as $100.22 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange and was at $100.06, up 46 cents, at 12:09 p.m. London time. The contract rose 14 cents to $99.60 yesterday. The volume of all futures traded was about 51 percent below the 100-day average.

Brent for May settlement was up 33 cents at $107.14 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange. The European benchmark crude was at a premium of $7.01 to WTI.

Fuel Supplies

U.S. crude supplies rose to 375.9 million barrels in the week ended March 14, the highest level since November, said the EIA, the Energy Department’s statistical arm. Refinery units are typically shut for maintenance in late winter before restarting in the spring to meet summer demand for gasoline.

Gasoline stockpiles probably shrank by 1.7 million barrels last week, according to the median estimate of nine analysts in the Bloomberg survey before the government report. Distillate inventories, a category that includes heating oil and diesel, slid by 1.1 million, the survey shows.

The industry-funded American Petroleum Institute is scheduled to release separate stockpile data today. The API in Washington collects information on a voluntary basis from operators of refineries, bulk terminals and pipelines. The government requires that reports be filed with the EIA.

Russia Suspended

Group of Seven leaders, meeting for the first time since last week’s annexation of Crimea by Russia, said last night they won’t attend a planned G-8 meeting which was to have been held in Sochi, site of the Winter Olympics, and will instead hold their own summit in June in Brussels.

The G-7 -- the U.S., Germany, the U.K., France, Italy, Canada and Japan -- reverted to its Cold War-era format, suspending what became the G-8 when Russia joined in 1998.

There are 140 vessels waiting to move through the Houston Ship Channel, the U.S. Coast Guard said. The channel, home to 11 percent of the nation’s refining capacity, is closed from just north of Texas City down to its entrance, at Bolivar.

The inspection flights over of the channel and Galveston Bay, following a 4,000-barrel fuel oil spill, are scheduled today to assess conditions for reopening, Tim Hicks, U.S. Coast Guard watch supervisor, said in an e-mail.

--With assistance from Winnie Zhu in Singapore.