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U.S. oil prices nudge higher, attempting to shake off rise in U.S. crude inventories


U.S. oil futures nudged higher in Thursday dealings, shaking off weakness attributed to data a day earlier that showed a further rise in U.S. crude inventories as prices for the commodity look to score back-to-back monthly gains.

Price moves

West Texas Intermediate crude

for April delivery


rose 27 cents, or 0.3%, to $78.81 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Prices based on the front month were poised for a monthly rise of around 3.8%.

April Brent crude
the global benchmark, was down 15 cents, or 0.2%, at $83.53 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe, ahead of its expiration at the end of the trading session. It traded around 3.7% higher for the month. May Brent

the most actively traded contract, was down 37 cents, or 0.5%, at $81.78 a barrel.

March gasoline

was nearly flat at $2.27 a gallon, looking to post a monthly rise of 1.7%, while March heating oil

shed 1.1% to $2.6284 a gallon, eyeing a monthly loss of 5.6%. The March contracts expire at the day’s settlement.

Natural gas for April delivery

traded at $1.866 per million British thermal units, down 1.1% for the session, and down 12% for the month.

Market drivers

The Energy Information Administration reported Wednesday that domestic commercial-crude inventories rose by 4.2 million to 447.3 million barrels for the week ending Feb. 23. The EIA has now reported gains in crude supply for five weeks in a row.

The report also showed weekly supply declines of 2.8 million barrels for gasoline and 500,000 barrels for distillates.

The data also showed a continued rebound in gasoline supplied, a key measure of implied consumer demand, wrote Tyler Richey, co-editor at Sevens Report Research. It hit its second highest level since mid-December at just shy of 8.5 million barrels a day, he said.

“A better consumer demand outlook is supportive of prices near term.” said Richey. Domestic production, meanwhile, has been holding steady at a record 13.3 million barrels a day since late January.

“Oil production not rising is not bearish and is easing a previous headwind on the market, setting futures up for more upside,” he said.

Analysts have recently pointed out that WTI and Brent oil futures in “backwardation” – a situation in which prices for oil for delivery in the near future are higher than those for later delivery, signaling that global supplies have tightened.

“One potential factor contributing to the considerable backwardation in the term structure of the futures market is the fact that the Biden Administration has added to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve for 12 out of the last 14 weeks, taking barrels out of the commercial market and into government storage,” said Richey. “The amount of the SPR adds has been relatively low, but it does seem to be contributing to the rally in active month futures and increasingly backwardated futures term structure.”

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