Some surprises in this week’s numbers:
The Energy Department’s Energy Information Administration reported that crude inventories fell by 3.8 million barrels during the week ended Sept. 14, more than double the 1.5 million-barrel decline analysts surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires, on average, had expected. However, crude inventories remain at the upper end of their average range for this time of year, the EIA said.
Gasoline supplies rose by 400,000 barrels, the EIA said, countering analyst predictions of a 1.3 million-barrel decline.
Refinery utilization fell by 0.9 percentage point to 89.6 percent of capacity. Analysts expected a decline of 0.5 percentage point.
Crude oil imports averaged 9.8 million barrels last week, an increase of 242,000 barrels per day. Gasoline imports averaged 1 million barrels a day, down slightly from a week earlier.
Demand for gasoline averaged nearly 9.5 million barrels a day over the last four weeks, the EIA said, 0.5 percent above the same period last year.
I am pretty surprised that gasoline inventories increased. Last week’s hurricane shut down some pretty big refineries, so I expected gasoline supplies to take a dip. Incidentally, I have read speculation that utilization is down because refiners can’t get oil (confirming Peak Oil Now for some). Not so. Utilization was down because of the hurricane. It is about to fall even more as fall turnaround season kicks into gear. So don’t take that as additional confirmation.