By Myra P. Saefong and William Watts
Oil futures rose on Thursday, with U.S. and global benchmark prices notching fresh multiyear highs after the International Energy Agency underlined climbing demand from power generators in the face of soaring prices for natural gas and coal.
Prices finished below the session’s best levels, however, as U.S. government data revealed a third straight weekly rise in domestic crude inventories, the largest since March.
The Energy Information Administration reported on Thursday that U.S. crude inventories rose by 6.1 million barrels for the week ended Oct. 8.
The increase defied expectations for an average 500,000 barrel decline expected by analysts polled by S&P Global Platts. The American Petroleum Institute late Wednesday reported a 5.2 million-barrel climb for last week. The EIA and API reports were each released a day later than usual this week because of Monday’s Columbus Day holiday.
Crude oil saw a much larger supply build than was expected, and a large draw out of the Cushing, Okla., storage hub, Tariq Zahir, managing member at Tyche Capital Advisors, told MarketWatch. The EIA data also showed crude stocks at the Cushing down by 1.9 million barrels last week.
U.S. consumer price index numbers came in stronger than expected on Wednesday and it “looks like inflation concerns being transitory are very much in doubt,” he said. “Inflation would help crude oil remain strong. However, since we are getting to the tail end of hurricane season and driving season easing, we wouldn’t be surprised to see crude oil give back some of the gains we have seen in recent weeks.”
Still, West Texas Intermediate crude for November delivery /zigman2/quotes/209723049/delayed CL00 +0.03% rose 87 cents, or 1.1%, to settle at $81.31 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange after tapping a high at $81.68.
December Brent crude , the global benchmark, added 82 cents, or 1%, to $84 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe, down from an intraday high of $84.50.
The EIA also reported a weekly inventory decline of 2 million barrels for gasoline, but said distillate supplies were “virtually unchanged” last week. Both remained below the five-year average levels for this time of year. The S&P Global Platts survey had forecast supply declines of 400,000 barrels for gasoline and 800,000 barrels for distillates.
On Nymex, November gasoline edged up by 1.2% to $2.435 a gallon, while November heating oil added 1.6% to $2.561 a gallon.
Oil prices finished Thursday at fresh multiyear highs, with U.S. benchmark WTI crude at the highest settlement since Oct. 29, 2014 and Brent crude at the highest close since Oct. 9, 2018, according to Dow Jones Market Data.
In its closely watched monthly report, the Paris-based IEA raised its global oil-demand forecasts for this year and the next by 170,000 barrels a day and 210,000 barrels a day respectively, but added that the cumulative effect of the continuing energy crisis could be as large as 500,000 barrels a day from September through next year’s first quarter.
The IEA noted a “massive” switch to crude by power generators amid a shortage of natural gas, liquefied natural gas and coal supplies.
Meanwhile, natural-gas futures extended early gains after the EIA reported on Thursday that domestic supplies of natural gas rose by 81 billion cubic feet for the week ended Oct. 8. That was a bit lower than the average increase of 89 billion cubic feet forecast by analysts polled by S&P Global Platts.
November natural gas tacked on 10 cents, or 1.7%, to $5.687 per million British thermal units. Prices have more than doubled so far this year and briefly jumped early last week to settle at a nearly 13-year high.
Prices in the U.S. won’t likely spike so sharply again, but “it is hard to have a high degree of confidence in that projection as we’re beyond simple supply and demand forces now, and dealing with a market that is afraid,” with supplies tight for the winter season, Marc LoPresti, co-managing director of The Strategic Funds, said in recent comments to MarketWatch.
“Fear makes rationality go out the window,” he said.
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