U.S. commercial crude oil inventories as reported by the Energy Information Administration reversed course last week, catching analysts off-guard and contributing to lower oil prices Wednesday.
Light sweet crude oil for September delivery lost 36 cents to settle at $97.40 a gallon after the EIA reported that oil stocks rose 0.65 percent last week to 354 million barrels. The 2.3 million-barrel week-on-week build contrasted with analysts' expectations; interestingly, analysts surveyed by Platts had predicted a draw of 2.3 million barrels for the period.
Prior to Wednesday's report, EIA had reported seven straight weeks of falling inventories. From May 27 to July 15, oil stocks reportedly declined by 5.9 percent. The Brent benchmark lost 85 cents to end the day at $117.43 a barrel.
The WTI traded within a range from $97.28 to $99.50 while the Brent fluctuated from $117.26 to $118.34.
The newly formed Tropical Storm Don is expected to affect operations somewhat at some Western Gulf of Mexico oil and gas installations as it tracks toward the Texas coastline. However, the National Hurricane Center on Wednesday afternoon was not expecting it to intensify into a hurricane. Front-month natural gas ended the day unchanged at $4.37 per thousand cubic feet.
August natural gas futures peaked at $4.41 and bottomed out at $4.34 during the midweek session.
Gasoline lost a penny to settle at $3.14 a gallon Wednesday. The intraday range for the August contract fluctuated from $3.135 to $3.18.
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