US Spot Crude: Sweet Oil Blends Weaken As Inventories Shrink

Sweet crude blends weakened in thin trading Thursday on the U.S. Gulf spot market, as concern in the futures market about falling oil inventories failed to trickle down.

Government data released Thursday morning showed a sixth-straight drop in crude inventories last week. The 3.3 million barrel drop once again topped analysts' expectations, though many attributed the decline to Gulf Coast operators reducing inventories to avoid a tax charge. Inventories both on the Gulf Coast and nationwide are now at their lowest level since January 2005.

Trading remained light, with sweet crudes, which have a low sulfur content and are therefore of a higher quality than sour blends, again weakening.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange, benchmark light, sweet crude for February delivery settled 65 cents higher at $96.62 a barrel, after hitting an intraday high of $97.79. Futures rose on the inventory data, after jumping briefly on the assassination of Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto.

Light Louisiana Sweet traded at plus $3.00, 35 cents weaker than on Wednesday.

Eugene Island sour crude traded at minus 50 cents, 90 cents weaker.

Deepwater Mars sour traded at minus $6.00 and minus $6.10, from minus $6.00 on Wednesday.

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