August crude oil futures rallied Wednesday on expectations that the U.S. Government and the American Petroleum Institute will report lower inventories.
Oil settled at $74.07 a barrel Wednesday, up $2.09 from the previous session, after trading from $71.44 to $73.95. Traders found encouragement from a Platts survey of analysts anticipating a 3.5 million-barrel decline in U.S. crude oil stocks. API was scheduled to release its data for the week ending July 2 later on Wednesday. The U.S. Energy Department, meanwhile, is set to report its findings for the same period on Thursday. According to a Platts analyst, the projected decline in inventories stems from production shut-ins in the Gulf of Mexico along with a two-day closure of the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port (LOOP) both a result of Hurricane Alex last week.
Adding to the momentum behind crude oil was a positive economic indicator regarding U.S. retail sales. The International Council of Shopping Centers-Goldman Sachs (ICSC-GS) index of chain store sales rose 1% week-on-week for the week ending July 3, the ICSC reported Wednesday. In addition, ICSC reported that the pace of spending at chain stores increased to 3.9% compared to the same period last year. The 3.9% figure reportedly is the strongest year-over-year pace since the 4.3% increase posted on May 8.
Also on the ascent Wednesday was the price of gasoline, which rose six cents to settle at $2.03 a gallon. Gasoline peaked at $2.03 and bottomed out at $1.96.
Natural gas futures for August delivery sank to $4.57 per thousand cubic feet, compared to $4.68 on Tuesday. The intraday range for gas was $4.57 to $4.78.
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