Why the latest oil inventory report affects crude prices


Dec. 4 2020, Updated 10:53 a.m. ET

Oil and refined product inventory data can move crude oil prices

Every week, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (or EIA) reports figures on crude inventories, or the amount of crude oil stored in facilities across the U.S. The EIA also provides data on inventories of distillate and gasoline, which are refined products of crude oil.

The markets monitor these figures, as inventory data can indicate supply and demand trends. If the increase in crude inventories is more than expected, it implies either greater supply or weaker demand and is bearish for crude oil prices. If the increase in crude inventories is less than expected, it implies either weaker supply or greater demand and is bullish for crude oil prices. Crude oil prices highly affect earnings for major oil producers such as Chevron (CVX), ExxonMobil (XOM), and Hess Corporation (HES), all of which are major components of energy ETFs, such as the Energy Select Sector SPDR (XLE) and the Vanguard Energy ETF (VDE).

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Another important figure the EIA reports is the level of crude oil inventories at Cushing, Oklahoma, a major inland oil hub in the U.S., which is one indicator of how effectively growing the U.S. oil production is moving from major inland production areas such as the Bakken in North Dakota and the Permian in West Texas to end refining markets. A build-up of inventories at Cushing may indicate that oil supplies are growing faster than takeaway infrastructure to end refining markets (many of which are located on the Gulf Coast) can keep up.

Last week’s reported inventory figures were positive for crude oil. Continue to the following part of this series for the details.


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