West Texas Intermediate traded near the lowest price in more than three weeks amid speculation that crude stockpiles expanded in the U.S., the world’s biggest oil consumer. Brent was stable in London.
Futures were little changed in New York after losing 1.4 percent yesterday, the first drop in three days. Crude inventories are forecast to have risen by 1.85 million barrels last week as winter demand fades, according to a Bloomberg News survey before an Energy Information Administration report tomorrow. Stockpiles climbed to 363.8 million in the prior seven days, the highest level since December. WTI is trading near a technical indicator that supported prices last week.
“The expected effect on demand as freezing weather like the ‘polar vortex’ in the U.S. came to an end could potentially mean inventory builds in the Energy Department data tomorrow,” said Michael Poulsen, an analyst at Global Risk Management Ltd. in Middelfart, Denmark.
WTI for April delivery gained 27 cents to $101.39 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange as of 9:17 a.m. London time. The contract dropped $1.46 to $101.12 yesterday, the lowest close since Feb. 14. The volume of all futures traded was 6 percent below the 100-day average.
Brent for April settlement was up 25 cents at $108.33 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange. The European benchmark crude was at a premium of $6.94 to WTI on ICE. The spread closed at $6.96 yesterday.
U.S. crude stockpiles have gained in the seven weeks through Feb. 28 as refiners reduced utilization to an average 87.4 percent of capacity, according to the EIA, the Energy Department’s statistical arm. Units are typically shut for maintenance in late winter before restarting in the spring.
Utilization rates were probably maintained in the week ended March 7, according to the median estimate of seven analysts surveyed by Bloomberg before tomorrow’s EIA report.
Gasoline stockpiles are projected to have slid by 2 million barrels, the survey shows. Distillate-fuel inventories, including heating oil and diesel, are expected to have fallen by 450,000 barrels.
The American Petroleum Institute is scheduled to release separate supply data today. The industry group in Washington collects information on a voluntary basis from operators of refineries, bulk terminals and pipelines. The government requires that reports be filed with the EIA.
WTI has technical support along its middle Bollinger Band, data compiled by Bloomberg show. This indicator, at about $100.65 a barrel today, is where futures halted an intraday drop on March 6 to $100.13, the lowest price last week. Buy orders tend to be clustered around chart-support levels.