RBOB Higher on Thursday Trade

RBOB Futures Settle at 16-month High, WTI at 18-month High

NEW YORK (DTN) -- New York Mercantile Exchange spot-month oil futures settled flat to higher Wednesday afternoon ahead of inventory data from the American Petroleum Institute, with the RBOB contract settling at a 16-month high and West Texas Intermediate at an 18-month high. January ULSD futures settled flat, down one point from Tuesday's 17-month high settlement.

Supportive technical factors and bullish sentiment has driven the advance to new highs by the front-month contracts amid low volume trade during the holiday-shortened business week.

The strong settlements also come ahead of API data expected to show a 2.2 million bbl stock draw for crude oil and 200,000 bbl decline in distillate supply occurred during the week ended Dec. 23, while the market expects gasoline supply to remain unchanged. The Energy Information Administration will issue its data for last week at 11:00 AM ET Thursday, with both reports delayed a day by Monday's federal holiday.

NYMEX February WTI crude futures settled 16 cents higher at $54.06 bbl while February Brent crude on the IntercontinentalExchange ended up 13 cents with a $56.22 bbl settlement.

NYMEX January ULSD futures settled flat at $1.6993 per gallon, after having rallied earlier in the session to a $1.7156 fresh 17-month spot high, with the February contract flat at $1.7171 per gallon.

January RBOB futures rallied 2.18 cents to a $1.6746 per gallon settlement, with the February contract settling 1.4 cents higher at $1.6757 per gallon.

NYMEX January oil products futures expire at Friday's close.

The upside for oil futures was capped by a strengthening U.S. dollar, with the dollar index rallying to a one-week high on expectations for a quicker pace to economic growth in 2017. Currency market watchers also expect the U.S. Federal Reserve to quicken the pace of its interest rate hikes.

The bullish sentiment was bolstered Tuesday after the Conference Board said its U.S. consumer confidence index rose to 113.7 this month, the highest since August 2001. On Dec. 22, the Bureau of Economic Analysis report U.S. gross domestic product grew at a 3.5% annualized rate.

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