Crude Oil Trades Near a Three-Day Low

Crude oil was little changed near a three-day low in New York after a government report showed that U.S. fuel demand declined to the lowest in almost five years.

Consumption averaged 19.5 million barrels a day during the past four weeks, down 6.6 percent from a year earlier, and the lowest since October 2003, the Energy Department said in a weekly report. Sales of previously owned U.S. homes fell more than forecast in August, the National Association of Realtors said yesterday, a sign of the weakness in the economy.

Crude oil for November delivery was at $105.77 a barrel, up 4 cents, in after-hours electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange at 12:45 p.m. Singapore time. Yesterday, futures dropped 88 cents to settle at $105.73 a barrel, the lowest close since Sept. 19.

Production platforms, refineries and ports along the Gulf of Mexico were shut last week in the aftermath of Hurricanes Gustav and Ike.

U.S. oil and gasoline supplies dropped as refineries cut operating rates to the lowest in at least 19 years.

Supplies of crude oil fell 1.52 million barrels to 290.2 million in the week ended Sept. 19, the department said. Crude- oil imports tumbled 16 percent to 7.14 million barrels a day, the lowest since January 2000.

Refineries operated at 66.7 percent of capacity last week, the lowest since the department began compiling weekly figures in 1989. The previous low was 69.8 percent of capacity, touched in September 2005, when refineries along the Gulf Coast were shut after hurricanes Katrina and Rita battered the region.,
9/25/2008 5:33:22 AM