Crude pulls back on rising U.S. fuel stockpiles

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Crude futures reversed course, falling more 1 percent on Thursday after U.S. data showed gasoline inventories rose unexpectedly last week, overshadowing a bullish drawdown in crude.

FILE PHOTO: A worker walks by an oil well at the Toma South oil field to Heglig, in Ruweng State, South Sudan August 25, 2018. REUTERS/Jok Solomun/File Photo

The U.S. crude inventories fell more than expected as refining runs increased, while gasoline and distillate inventories rose, the Energy Information Administration said on Thursday. [EIA/S]

Stocks at the Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery hub for U.S. crude futures USOICC=ECI rose by 549,000 barrels, EIA said.

“The slow climb back of crude oil levels at Cushing is somewhat bearish, and the absence of Chinese buyers of U.S. crude oil is depressing export volumes,” said John Kilduff, a partner at Again Capital Management in New York. “Domestic production is not growing at the pace it was earlier in the year, either.”

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude CLc1 futures fell 95 cents to settle at $67.77 a barrel, a 1.3 percent loss. Brent crude LCOc1 futures lost 77 cents to trade at $76.50 a barrel, a 1 percent loss.

Earlier, both contracts had traded higher, encouraged by a weaker dollar and evidence of strong U.S. fuel demand.

Emerging-market stocks, bonds and currencies have plunged in recent weeks in response to financial crises in countries including Turkey, South Africa and Venezuela.

“In the last week we’ve seen the focus shift again from supply back to demand and the continued calamity in emerging market stocks, bonds and currencies is weighing on the medium- and longer-term demand outlook,” said Saxo Bank senior manager Ole Hansen.

“We did see quite a lot of momentum last week and then oil was shot down in flames after its failed attempt to break above $80. ... Now we have the extra dimension of a spike in oil prices that can only increase the pain (for consumers) and the risk of a slowdown in demand.”

The market is already preparing for the loss of at least 1 million barrels per day (bpd) in Iranian crude supplies from early November, when U.S. sanctions against Tehran come into force. The oil price has risen by 3 percent since the U.S. government announced the sanctions in May.

(Graphic: Iran's monthly crude oil shipments to Asia:

“The million-dollar question is how much Iranian oil will be lost after Nov. 4 when the second round of sanctions kicks in,” said PVM Oil Associates strategist Tamas Varga. “If it is around 1 million bpd, or more, as expected, the fragile supply/demand balance will be upset and oil prices will stay supported.”

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) on Wednesday said it expected global oil demand to break through 100 million bpd for the first time this year.

A further risk is seen in OPEC-member Venezuela, where a government and political crisis has halved oil production in the past two years to little more than 1 million bpd.

Reporting by Jessica Resnick-Ault; Additional reporting by Stephanie Kelly in New York, Amanda Cooper in London and Henning Gloystein in Singapore; Editing by Chris Reese and Leslie Adler