The U.S. Energy Department's inventory release showed that crude stockpiles recorded a shock weekly build as domestic output hit 11 million barrels a day for the very first time. Despite the record production, U.S. benchmark crude futures gained 1% (or 68 cents) to $68.76 per barrel Wednesday. The positive price movement was supported by strong demand for refined product inventories.
Soaring U.S. Output
The talking point from the data sets was the steady trend of rising domestic oil production. Pumping at the rate of 11 million barrels per day, output in the United States is now ahead of Saudi Arabia and second only to Russia. Not surprisingly, a number of companies involved in oil production have generated handsome returns year to date. Stocks like Marathon Oil Corporation MRO, Hess Corporation HES, Anadarko Petroleum Corporation APC and ConocoPhillips COP have each gained in excess of 20% in 2018.
Analysis of the EIA Data
Crude Oil: The federal government’s EIA report revealed that crude inventories jumped by 5.8 million barrels for the week ending Jul 13, following a steep decrease of 12.6 million barrels in the previous week. The analysts surveyed by S&P Global Platts – the leading independent commodities and energy data provider – had expected crude stocks to go down some 3 million barrels.
Record high domestic production and sharp rise in imports led to the surprise stockpile build with the world's biggest oil consumer. In particular, output in the United States rose by 100,000 barrels per day last week to 11 million barrels per day – the most since the EIA started maintaining weekly data in 1983. In early February, oil production broke through the 10 million barrels a day threshold for the first time in nearly 50 years and has maintained the record levels thereafter.
Despite last week’s increase, oil inventories have generally trended lower in a year and a half. In fact, stockpiles have shrunk in 45 of the last 67 weeks and are down nearly 80 million barrels in the past year. The gradual fall has helped the U.S. crude market shift from year-over-year storage surplus to a deficit. At 411.1 million barrels, current crude supplies are 16% below the year-ago figure and 2% under the five-year average.
Importantly, stocks at the Cushing terminal in Oklahoma – the key delivery hub for U.S. crude futures traded on the New York Mercantile Exchange – fell 860,000 barrels to 24.9 million barrels.
The crude supply cover was up from 22.9 days in the previous week to 23.4 days. In the year-ago period, the supply cover was 28.7 days.
Gasoline: Gasoline supplies were down for the third week on stronger demand. The 3.2 million barrels draw – above the polled number of one million barrels fall in supply level – took gasoline stockpiles down to 235.8 million barrels. Following last week’s decline, the stock of the most widely used petroleum product is now 2% above the year-earlier level and is 5% over the five-year range.
Distillate: Distillate fuel supplies (including diesel and heating oil) edged down 371,000 barrels last week. Meanwhile, analysts expected the supply level to decrease by 45,000 barrels. The first fall in five weeks could be attributed to higher demand. At 121.3 million barrels, current supplies are 20% below the year-ago level and 13% lower than the five-year average.
Refinery Rates: Refinery utilization was down by 2.4% from the prior week to 94.3%.
About the Weekly Petroleum Status Report
The Energy Information Administration (EIA) Petroleum Status Report, containing data of the previous week ending Friday, outlines information regarding the weekly change in petroleum inventories held and produced by the U.S., both locally and abroad.
The report provides an overview of the level of reserves and their movements, thereby helping investors understand the demand/supply dynamics of petroleum products. It is an indicator of current oil prices and volatility that affect the businesses of the companies engaged in the oil and refining industry.
Want to Own an Energy Stock Now?
If you are looking for a near-term energy play, Whiting Petroleum Corporation WLL may be an excellent selection. This company has a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.
Whiting is a top-tier oil explorer and producer in North Dakota's Williston Basin. In the last 60 days, nine earnings estimates moved north, while one moved south for the current year. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for earnings has risen 18% in the same period.
Today's Stocks from Zacks' Hottest Strategies
It's hard to believe, even for us at Zacks. But while the market gained +21.9% in 2017, our top stock-picking screens have returned +115.0%, +109.3%, +104.9%, +98.6%, and +67.1%.
And this outperformance has not just been a recent phenomenon. Over the years it has been remarkably consistent. From 2000 - 2017, the composite yearly average gain for these strategies has beaten the market more than 19X over. Maybe even more remarkable is the fact that we're willing to share their latest stocks with you without cost or obligation.
Want the latest recommendations from Zacks Investment Research? Today, you can download 7 Best Stocks for the Next 30 Days. Click to get this free report
Anadarko Petroleum Corporation (APC): Free Stock Analysis Report
Whiting Petroleum Corporation (WLL): Free Stock Analysis Report
Hess Corporation (HES): Free Stock Analysis Report
ConocoPhillips (COP): Free Stock Analysis Report
Marathon Oil Corporation (MRO): Free Stock Analysis Report
To read this article on Zacks.com click here.