Futures in New York were holding gains after rising 2.4 percent Wednesday, when U.S. government data showed that gasoline inventories dropped more than expected. Additionally, refineries boosted the amount of crude they processed by the most in almost three years. That helped overshadow a gain in American output and stockpiles that have undermined production curbs this year by OPEC and its partners.
While U.S. crude inventories rose last week, they increased by less than they were expected to, signaling that more oil is being pulled out of storage. That optimism and an unexpected disruption in Libyan production has helped drive prices 3.7 percent over the past two sessions, in their longest stretch of gains in more than a month. They had slid last week to the lowest since November as increasing American supplies countered output cuts by other producers.
“It’s a positive for the global oil market that demand in the U.S. is clearly picking up,” said Michael McCarthy, chief markets strategist at CMC Markets in Sydney. “There is now a pretty good floor in place at $47.50 a barrel.”
West Texas Intermediate for May delivery was at $49.60 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, up 9 cents, at 7:50 a.m. in London. Total volume traded was about 29 percent above the 100-day average. The contract gained $1.14 to $49.51 on Wednesday.
Brent for May settlement, which expires Friday, was 4 cents higher at $52.46 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange. Prices advanced $1.09, or 2.1 percent, to $52.42 on Wednesday. The global benchmark crude was at a premium of $2.85 to WTI.
U.S. gasoline inventories dropped by 3.75 million barrels last week, according to an Energy Information Administration report on Wednesday. They were projected to fall by 2 million barrels. Refineries processed 16.2 million barrels a day of crude last week, up 425,000 barrels from the prior week, according to the EIA. It was the biggest weekly increase since June 2014.
Record nationwide crude stockpiles rose by 867,000 barrels, compared with a projected 2-million barrel gain. Oil output climbed further above 9.1 million barrels a day.
- Exports in March from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries dropped dropped by 1.18 million barrels a day from the previous month to 24.4 million, as several countries not bound by the group’s supply deal curbed shipments, according to cargo-tracking company Kpler SAS.
- The OPEC-led supply cuts are gradually restoring the market to balance, the group’s Secretary-General Mohammad Barkindo said in a statement.