WASHINGTON (DTN) -- Oil futures on New York Mercantile Exchange and Brent crude on Intercontinental Exchange finished lower in afternoon trade Wednesday. West Texas Intermediate moved back above $20 per barrel (bbl) after the White House called for an emergency meeting Friday, April 3, with the heads of top U.S. oil companies scheduled to discuss policy measures aiding domestic producers.
Reports indicate measures could include tariffs on Saudi oil imports into the United States as Saudi Arabia threatens to overwhelm the global oil market with cheap supply, and easing the Jones Act, which would allow more ships to move crude and products between U.S. ports.
The meeting is to take place at the White House later this week and will include Exxon Mobil Corp. CEO Darren Woods, Chevron Corp. CEO Mike Wirth, Occidental Petroleum Corp. CEO Vicki Hollub and Harold Hamm, executive chairman of Continental Resources Inc. Reports indicate the oil industry is divided over a federal policy response despite the plunge in oil prices.
On the session, May WTI futures edged lower $0.17 to finish at $20.18 per bbl and fresh front-month ICE Brent June contract slumped $1.16 to $24.74 bbl. Both benchmarks fell over 65% during the first quarter. NYMEX RBOB May contract expanded its losses, falling 4.62 cents to finish at $0.5565 gallon and front-month ULSD May futures dropped 6.92 cents to a $0.9323 gallon settlement.
WTI futures briefly dipped below $20 bbl to $19.90 bbl after weekly inventory data from the Energy Information Administration reported crude and gasoline supplies in the United States climbed by a combined 21.3 million bbl last week as demand gets pummeled with coronavirus travel restrictions. Gasoline consumption plunged 2.178 million barrels per day (bpd) or 25% during the week ended March 27, the largest single-week decline on record. Commercial crude inventories rose by a much larger-than-expected 13.8 million bbl, as domestic refiners sharply reduced crude throughputs last week.
In contrast, distillates inventories, which includes diesel fuel used in the trucking industry fell by 2.2 million bbl as deliveries of food and other household products remained robust. Distillates inventories are now 13% below the five-year average.
Economic data released Wednesday offered an initial look at the damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, suggesting a bleak outlook for global manufacturers over the next couple of months. Data showed contraction in manufacturing in all major economies except China, where the virus emerged, affecting the Asian economy earlier in the first quarter.
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