Friday, August 6, 2010

Oil Little Changed Near Three-Month High After Falling on Jobless Claims

Crude oil was little changed near a three-month high after declining as the number of Americans filing applications for unemployment insurance climbed to the most since April.

Oil dropped for a second day yesterday and equities fell after the Labor Department reported that initial jobless claims increased by 19,000 to 479,000 last week. U.S. retailers reported July sales gains that missed analysts’ estimates as consumers cut spending. An Energy Department report Aug. 4 showed that crude oil supplies in the Midwest surged to a record as nationwide fuel stockpiles rose.

“U.S. markets fell marginally after an unexpected rise in weekly jobless claims and sluggish retail sales data,” said Chris Weston, a Melbourne-based institutional dealer at IG Markets. “Retail sales data out from individual retailers was decidedly sluggish, painting the picture of a cautious consumer.”

Crude oil for September delivery was at $82.08 a barrel, up 7 cents, in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange at 9:48 a.m. Sydney time. Yesterday, the contract declined 46 cents, or 0.6 percent, to $82.01. On Aug. 3, oil settled at $82.55, the highest level since May 4. Futures are up 4 percent this week and 14 percent higher than a year ago.

Economists forecast U.S. jobless claims would fall to 455,000, according to the median of 43 projections. Estimates ranged from 444,000 to 470,000. The government revised the prior week’s total to 460,000 from a previously reported 457,000.

Crude Supplies

Crude oil inventories in the 15-state U.S. Midwest rose to 97.7 million barrels in the week ended July 30, the highest level recorded since the data started in 1990, the Energy Department report showed.

Gasoline supplies increased 729,000 barrels to 223 million, the highest level since April 30. Stockpiles of distillate fuel, a category that includes heating oil and diesel, rose 2.17 million barrels to 169.7 million, the highest level since the week ended Oct. 16.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries will reduce shipments this month as refineries close for maintenance, according to tanker-tracker Oil Movements. OPEC will ship 23.33 million barrels a day in the four weeks to Aug. 21, down 1.8 percent from 23.75 million barrels a day in the month ended July 24, the Halifax, England-based consultant said yesterday. The data exclude Ecuador and Angola.

Saudi Arabian Oil Co., the world’s largest state-owned oil company, lowered official selling prices on all crude grades for customers in Asia and Europe for September, and cut prices for light grades to the U.S.

The U.S. reduced its forecast for the 2010 Atlantic hurricane period to 14 to 20 named storms, down from 14 to 23, because of less activity than expected in the first two months of the season.

Brent crude oil for September settlement fell 59 cents, or 0.7 percent, to end the session at $81.61 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange yesterday.