By Myra P. Saefong and William Watts
Oil futures finished lower on Thursday, with U.S. benchmark crude posting its first loss in six sessions, as analysts cited profit-taking for the pullback in prices from multiyear highs.
“While some projections are as bullish as $100, current price levels already start feeling high for traders, who always have an itch to reap profits from the rising prices,” said Louise Dickson, senior oil markets analyst at Rystad Energy, in a note.
“Traders who had set $86 as their selling threshold took the opportunity to already pocket some profit and oil prices took a dive as a result,” she said.
West Texas Intermediate crude for December delivery /zigman2/quotes/209723049/delayed CL00 +2.75% fell 92 cents, or 1.1%, to close at $82.50 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The November contract expired Wednesday at a seven-year high, up a fifth session in a row.
December Brent crude , the global benchmark, declined by $1.21, or 1.4%, to $84.61 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe, after finishing Wednesday at its highest since October 2018.
Profit-taking aside, the trajectory for crude still looks bullish for the rest of the year, Dickson said, thanks to rising demand and a tight production policy by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, a group known as OPEC+.
OPEC+ members have struggled to meet production quotas after agreeing this summer to begin easing existing output cuts in monthly increments of 400,000 barrels a day.
On Wednesday, crude futures had traded lower in early dealings before rebounding after government data showed an unexpected weekly fall in U.S. crude inventories. Gasoline and distillate stockpiles, which include heating oil, also declined.
On Thursday, November gasoline lost 1.1% to $2.48 a gallon and November heating oil shed 1.7% to $2.549 a gallon.
“The EIA posted a combined crude and product draw of nearly 10 million barrels for commercial stocks, with an additional draw from strategic reserves,” said Robbie Fraser, global research & analytics manager at Schneider Electric, in a daily note.
Crude stocks also “remain far below normal for this time of year,” and will “need months of a stronger supply/demand balance before moving in line with the five-year average,” he said.
Also on Nymex, natural-gas futures settled lower after the EIA on Thursday reported that domestic supplies of natural gas rose by 92 billion cubic feet for the week ended Oct. 15. That was a bit larger than the average increase of 88 billion cubic feet forecast by analysts polled by S&P Global Platts.
November natural gas settled at $5.115 per million British thermal units, down 1.1%.
The weekly supply rise compared with a five-year average increase of 49 Bcf and a climb of 69 Bcf for the same week a year ago, according to S&P Global Platts.