LONDON (Reuters) – Oil prices held above $63 on Wednesday ahead of data expected to show a fall in crude stocks in top world consumer the United States after dense fog disrupted imports.
U.S. crude for February delivery traded at $63.39 a barrel, up 24 cents from the January contract expiry of $63.15 on Tuesday. London Brent February crude fell 6 cents to $62.75.
“The market will be dependent on U.S. government data and it’s possible to test $64,” said Ken Hasegawa at Himawari CX in Tokyo.
Delays to U.S. oil imports due to dense fog along the Gulf of Mexico coast forced refiners to draw on inventories last week.
U.S. crude stocks were expected to fall 1.7 million barrels in government data due later on Wednesday, according to a Reuters poll of analysts.
The fog has interrupted shipping along the Houston Ship Channel for the last six days. The waterway feeds plants with 12 percent of U.S. refinery capacity.
The fog has also hampered delivery of refined products to storage. Distillate fuel supplies were forecast to be down 800,000 barrels despite mild temperatures, a Reuters survey showed .
Mild weather was expected to last in most of the United States until at least early January, continuing a warm spell that has cut into heating demand, forecasters said this week.
The import delays on the U.S. Gulf Coast come just as OPEC production cuts started to affect shipments to the United States.
OPEC agreed to cut crude production by 1.2 million barrels per day (bpd) from November and a further 500,000 bpd from February.
A Reuters survey shows OPEC only met around two-thirds of its initial cutbacks, made to stem a price slide from over $78 in July, but analysts say inventories have still started to decline.
U.S. oil inventories were running about 4 percent higher than a year ago, according to last week’s government data. In the world’s third largest oil consumer Japan, industry data on Wednesday showed crude and kerosene heating stocks both fell.