Oil Falls

Crude oil fell after an Energy Department report showed that U.S. refineries curbed operating rates as the recession crimps fuel demand.

Refineries operated at 84.3 percent of capacity, down 1.8 percentage points from the week before. It was the biggest one- week drop since September, when hurricanes Gustav and Ike struck the Gulf Coast. A 0.4 percentage-point increase was forecast. The report showed that total fuel use was down from a year earlier.

Crude oil for January delivery fell 12 cents, or 0.3 percent, to $46.84 a barrel at the 2:30 p.m. close of floor trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Futures touched $46.26, the lowest since May 20, 2005. Oil prices have tumbled 68 percent since reaching a record $147.27 on July 11.

Consumption averaged 19.6 million barrels a day last week, up 0.6 percent from the week before and down 5.7 percent from a year earlier, according to the report. Gasoline demand rose as consumption of distillate fuel, a category including diesel and heating oil, dropped, the report showed. The department released its weekly report today at 10:35 a.m. in Washington.

Brent crude oil for January settlement fell 10 cents to $45.34 a barrel on London’s ICE Futures Europe exchange. Futures touched $44.87, the lowest since Feb. 14, 2005.

TradingEconomics.com, Bloomberg
12/3/2008 12:05:54 PM