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Oil Futures Choppy in Asia; US Weekly Oil Stocks Likely Rose

Published: February 20, 2013 | 8:55 am
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Crude-oil futures are choppy in Asian trade Wednesday after settling higher in floor trade yesterday on strong U.S. equities markets and positive economic data from Europe.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange light, sweet crude futures for delivery in March traded at $96.74 a barrel at 0609 GMT–up $0.08 in the Globex electronic session. April Brent crude on London’s ICE Futures exchange fell $0.17 to $117.35 a barrel.

The March Nymex contract expires later Wednesday. The more heavily traded April contract is traded at $97.10 a barrel.

“Global risk sentiments were lifted overnight by the better-than-expected improvement in the German ZEW survey which reinforced the Bundesbank’s earlier comments that it expects Germany to return to growth this quarter…,” Singapore-based OCBC Bank O39.SG +0.50% said in a note.

Earlier Wednesday Japan’s trade-balance data showed a record monthly deficit of about Y1.6 trillion in January–wider than the Y1.3 trillion expected by economists polled by Dow Jones Newswires.

A weaker yen inflated Japan’s energy import bill which has soared since it shifted to costlier fossil-fuel imports after shutting most of its nuclear power plants. Japan’s imports of petroleum products were up 33.7% while LNG imports rose 11.4%.

U.S. weekly oil data are expected to show crude-oil stockpiles rose by 2.2 million barrels last week, according to analysts surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires.

The Energy Information Administration will release its survey at 11 a.m. EST Thursday while the American Petroleum Institute report is due 4:30 p.m. EST Wednesday.

The Nymex oil benchmark has been trading at a discount to Brent owing to a supply glut at the Cushing, Okla. oil hub in the U.S.

Enterprise Products Partners LP’s EPD +1.12% Seaway Pipeline, which moves oil out of Cushing, will increase flows from January levels, a company executive said Tuesday.

It is expected to carry an average of 295,000 barrels of oil a day between February and May–up from about 180,000 barrels a day in January, the company said.

Although the news boosted Nymex prices ANZ Bank ANZ.AU +0.74% said the pipeline will continue operating below its capacity of 400,000 barrels a day for the foreseeable future and weigh on oil stocks.

Nymex reformulated gasoline blendstock for March–the benchmark gasoline contract–fell 38 points to $3.1174 a gallon while March heating oil traded at $3.1889–83 points higher.

ICE gasoil for March changed hands at $1004.00 a metric ton–up $4.25 from Tuesday’s settlement.


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