SINGAPORE, (AP) – Oil prices rose in Asian trading Thursday after a U.S. government report that showed domestic crude and gasoline stockpiles were lower than analysts had forecast.
“The latest weekly oil data have added to the evidence of a significant degree of market tightening relative to normal patterns,” said Paul Horsnell, Head of Commodities Research at Barclays Capital.
Light, sweet crude for April delivery gained 12 cents to $61.94 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile exchange mid-afternoon in Singapore. The contract gained more than $1 the previous day to settle at $61.82 per barrel.
Brent crude for April delivery gained 29 cents to $62.79 a barrel on London’s ICE Futures Exchange.
Crude prices climbed as high as $62.10 earlier Wednesday following the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s report that crude oil stockpiles dropped by 4.8 million barrels last week to 324.2 million barrels. Crude inventories are still above average for this time of year, but the decline surprised analysts, who had been expecting a rise of 2 million barrels, according to a Dow Jones Newswires survey.
Part of the fall was due to delays at the Houston Ship Channel, which helped limit overall imports to an average of 8.9 million barrels daily last week, the U.S. government said, down by 650,000 barrels daily from the prior week.
Total U.S. motor gasoline inventories fell by 3.8 million barrels to 216.4 million barrels, a sharper decline than the 1.4 million barrel drop that analysts had expected. The government said refineries operated at 85.8 percent of capacity during the week, down from 86 percent the prior week.
Distillate fuel inventories, which include diesel and heating oil, fell by 1.3 million barrels to 123.2 million, the EIA reported. Analysts had expected a 2.3 million barrel decline.
Markets are also watching developments in the Middle East over Iran’s over failure to comply with demands to halt its uranium enrichment program. Washington is pushing for tougher U.N. sanctions on Tehran and introducing legislation to squeeze Iran by punishing foreign oil companies that invest in its energy industry, the heart of Iran’s economy.
In other Nymex trading, heating oil futures gained 0.26 cents to $1.7700 a gallon while natural gas prices fell 3.6 cents to $7.330 per 1,000 cubic feet.