Oil prices finish lower after a 3-session climb

Oil futures finished lower on Thursday, easing back in the wake of three consecutive session gains.

The price decline comes a day after official government data revealed a seventh straight weekly rise in U.S. crude inventories.

Price action
  • West Texas Intermediate crude for March delivery CL.1, -0.98% CL00, -0.98% CLH23, -0.98% fell 41 cents, or 0.5%, to settle at $78.06 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
  • April Brent crude BRN00, -0.43% BRNJ23, -0.43%, the global benchmark, shed 59 cents, or 0.7%, to $84.50 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe.
  • March gasoline RBH23, -1.02% lost 0.6% at $2.4475 a gallon, while March heating oil HOH23, -2.70% slid 2.7% to $2.8154 a gallon.
  • March natural gas NGH23, +0.96% climbed by 1.4% at $2.43 per million British thermal units. After losing 7.3% on Wednesday, it trades around 10% lower for the week so far.
Market drivers

Oil prices have fallen after their “impressive” gains over the past few days, Fawad Razaqzada, market analyst at City Index and FOREX.com, told MarketWatch. “It looks like profit-taking to me.”

“Had it been because of the bearish oil supply data, then surely prices should have dropped the day before,” he said. 

Also see: Here’s how U.S. gasoline prices compare to other parts of the world, says GasBuddy

U.S. crude inventories rose by 2.4 million barrels for the week ended Feb. 3, the EIA said Wednesday, a seventh straight rise. The figure was slightly larger than the average estimate of analysts surveyed by S&P Global Commodity Insights, and defied a 2.2 million barrel drop reportedly seen by the American Petroleum Institute, an industry trade group.

Still, “strong refinery runs over the week may have provided support to the market,” said Warren Patterson and Ewa Manthey, commodity strategists at ING, in a note. WTI oil prices posted a gain of 1.7% on Wednesday following the EIA data.

Refinery utilization increased by 2.2 percentage points to 87.9%, the strongest level so far this year, the ING strategists noted, while observing that stronger refinery runs contributed to large increases in product inventories. Gasoline and distillate fuel oil stocks increased by 5 million barrels and 2.9 million barrels, respectively.

Oil prices still trade sharply higher for the week, buoyed by expectations for higher demand from China.

A lot of people have been focused on rising demand from a China reopening, but “it overlooks the fact that Chinese oil stocks are probably already quite high due to lockdowns and any attempt to refill these supplies could be done at knockdown prices through Russian imports,” said Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets UK, in a daily note. “After all who else is Russia going to sell its oil to?”

Read: How Russia has ‘upended global trade flows’ in the year since its invasion of Ukraine

Natural-gas futures, meanwhile, ended higher Thursday after the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported that domestic natural-gas supplies fell by 217 billion cubic feet for the week ended Feb. 3.

That compared with an average analyst forecast for a decline of 197 billion cubic feet, according to a survey conducted by S&P Global Commodity Insights.


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