Oil Futures End Mixed After EIA Data

NEW YORK (DTN) -- New York Mercantile Exchange oil futures settled mixed with West Texas Intermediate crude eking out a modest gain after a raging wildfire disrupted production at the Alberta oil sands production grounds, while RBOB and ULSD fell amid fears weak economic data would stifle demand.

"The fire in Alberta gave the market a psychological boost, but there were still concerns about demand and a build for U.S. crude stocks overshadowing the fact the U.S. crude production fell for the eight straight week," said analyst Phil Flynn at Price Futures.

NYMEX June WTI crude futures settled 13 cents higher at $43.78 per barrel (bbl), reversing up after posting a one-week low of $43.22. ICE July Brent futures settled 35 cents lower at $44.62 bbl.

NYMEX June ULSD futures eased 0.52 cents to $1.3282 gallon at settlement, off a $1.3140 one-week spot low. NYMEX June RBOB futures settled down 2.34 cents at $1.4866 gallon, rallying off a $1.4655.

The oil futures complex has been under pressure since Friday but rallied overnight after a wildfire near Fort McMurray forced Suncor Energy to reduce output at its facilities near in northern Alberta oil sands and evacuate its employees.

However, bearish weekly oil data from the Energy Information Administration showing a bigger-than-expected build in domestic crude oil stocks and mixed changes for products inventories limited oil futures' upside.

EIA midmorning reported total domestic crude stockpiles rose by 2.8 million bbl during the week-ended April 29, surpassing a forecast for a 700,000 bbl rise while the American Petroleum Institute on Tuesday showed a 1.3 million bbl stock build. Domestic crude production fell 113,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 8.825 million bpd, said EIA.

On products, EIA reported an unexpected gasoline stock build of 536,000 bbl versus calls for a 1.5 million bbl stock draw, while API showed a 1.2 million bbl stock decline.

EIA also reported a distillates stock draw of 1.3 million bbl while a survey showed expectations for a 500,000 bbl decline and API reported a 2.6 million bbl decrease.

EIA reported refinery crude inputs rose 139,000 bpd for the week-ended April 29, with implied demand for gasoline up 187,000 bpd but implied demand for distillates down 176,000 bpd.

Concerns about demand were triggered by disappointing data out this morning from payroll firm ADP showing 156,000 private jobs were created last month, which missed forecast for 195,000 new jobs.

ADP is an imperfect precursor for the Labor Department's payroll report due out on Friday. The rate of job creation has been the brightest spot for the U.S. economy, so the ADP data is one of the latest signs of slowing domestic growth.

Other data showed March durable goods orders up 0.8% while first quarter advanced productivity fell 1.0%. "Demand is good for now but there's fear it would fall in the future because of economic slowdown," said Flynn.

Before today's volatile trade, oil futures had come under pressure from Friday to Tuesday in response to rising output from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and data showing economic slowdowns in the United States and China.

George Orwel can be reached at george.orwel@dtn.com