Crude Oil Falls

Crude oil futures fell after a U.S. government report showed a bigger-than-expected inventory gain as lower demand prompted refiners to slow processing., Bloomberg 3/11/2009 1:19:09 PM

Supplies increased 749,000 barrels to 351.3 million barrels last week, an Energy Department report showed. Stockpiles were forecast to rise by 250,000 barrels, according to the median of analyst estimates in a Bloomberg News survey. Fuel consumption dropped to the lowest in two months.

Crude oil for April delivery fell $3.19, or 7 percent, to $42.52 a barrel at the 2:30 p.m. close of floor trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Prices are down 4.7 percent so far this year.

Refineries operated at 82.7 percent of capacity, down 0.4 percentage point from the prior week, the report showed. Refineries operated at 85 percent of capacity during the first week of March last year.

U.S. fuel consumption dropped 3.5 percent to 18.9 million barrels a day, the lowest since the week ended Jan. 9. Total daily fuel demand averaged over the past four weeks was 19.3 million barrels, down 2.1 percent from a year earlier.

World oil demand will average 84.27 million barrels a day this year, a drop of 1.38 million barrels from 2008, the department said in a report yesterday.

Gasoline inventories dropped 2.99 million barrels to 212.5 million barrels in the week ended March 6, the department said. Stockpiles were forecast to fall by 1 million barrels, according to the median of analyst estimates in the Bloomberg survey.

Gasoline futures for April delivery declined 4.02 cents, or 3.1 percent, to $1.257 a gallon in New York.

The average U.S. pump price for regular gasoline dropped 0.3 cent to $1.938 a gallon, AAA, the nation’s largest motorist organization, said on its Web site. Prices have declined 53 percent from the record $4.114 a gallon reached in July.

Distillate stockpiles rose 2.1 million barrels to 145.4 million, the report showed. A 200,000-barrel increase was forecast.

China, the world’s second-biggest energy consumer, cut net crude-oil imports to the lowest in at least two years in February, according to data released by the customs bureau in Beijing today.

Net shipments dropped a second month to 11.12 million metric tons, about 2.9 million barrels a day. Imports fell 18 percent, the largest drop since at least 2006, to 11.73 million tons, while exports increased to 610,000 tons.