Declining U.S. pump prices have spurred demand and cut inventories. Gasoline supplies fell 3.32 million barrels last week, the biggest reduction since September, an Energy Department report showed yesterday. Crude-oil imports dropped as OPEC members cut production in an effort to increase prices.
Crude oil for April delivery increased $2.73, or 6.4 percent, to $45.23 a barrel at the 2:30 p.m. close of floor trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Futures touched $45.30, the highest since Jan. 27. Prices are up 8.5 percent this month and 1.4 percent this year.
Gasoline futures for March delivery increased 13.28 cents to $1.2995 a gallon in New York. Futures are heading for the biggest increase since Dec. 31. The contract reached $1.307, the highest since Feb. 11.
The average U.S. pump price for regular gasoline dropped 0.9 cent to $1.882 a gallon yesterday, AAA, the nation’s largest motorist organization, said on its Web site. Prices have declined 54 percent from the record $4.114 a gallon reached in July.
U.S. gasoline consumption averaged 9 million barrels a day over the past four weeks, up 1.7 percent from a year earlier, yesterday’s report showed. The department measures shipments from refineries, pipelines and terminals to calculate demand.
Crude oil supplies rose 717,000 barrels to 351.3 million barrels last week, the department said yesterday. Inventories were forecast to increase by 1.25 million barrels, according to the median of responses in a Bloomberg News survey. In January stockpiles increased by a weekly average 5.46 million barrels.
Imports dropped 0.3 percent to 8.77 million barrels a day, the lowest since the week ended Sept. 18, when ports were shut in the aftermath of hurricanes Gustav and Ike, the report showed.
OPEC agreed on Dec. 17 to reduce oil supplies starting Jan. 1 to bolster prices. The 11 members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries with quotas, all except Iraq, cut output 3.8 percent to 25.3 million barrels a day in February, consultant PetroLogistics Ltd. of Geneva said Feb. 23. Members have a quota of 24.845 million barrels a day.
Brent crude oil for April settlement increased $2.15, or 4.9 percent, to $46.44 a barrel on London’s ICE Futures Europe exchange. Futures reached $46.63, the highest since Feb. 10.