Oil futures continued their push higher Wednesday, buoyed by industry data that showed a drop in U.S. crude inventories as investors brushed off tightening restrictions on business activity due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
West Texas Intermediate crude for February delivery rose 20 cents, or 0.4%, to $53.41 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. March Brent crude, the global benchmark, was up 13 cents, or 0.2%, to $56.71 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe. Both benchmarks finished Tuesday at their highest since Feb. 21.
Crude was underpinned after the American Petroleum Institute, an industry group, reportedly said Tuesday that U.S. crude inventories fell by 5.8 million barrels last week. The API also reportedly saw a 1.9 million barrel rise in gasoline stocks and a 4.4 million barrel increase in distillate stocks.
The Energy Information Administration’s more closely followed data is due Wednesday morning. Analysts surveyed by S&P Global Platts expect the EIA data to show crude inventories fell 3.8 million barrels, while gasoline stocks are expected to show a rise of 3.2 million barrels and distillate stocks are seen up 2.8 million barrels.
WTI was on track to extend its winning streak to seven sessions, with crude prices underpinned globally by Saudi Arabia’s decision last week to cut production by 1 million barrels a day in February and March.
“Negative news flow on the global macro front or problems with the rollout of COVID vaccines can trigger a sharp fall in oil prices,” said Stephen Innes, chief global market strategist at Axi, in a note.
“Still, Saudi’s willingness to support the oil price does limit downside risk this year, but one must believe that Brent above $57 a barrel is susceptible to bad news,” he said.
February natural-gas futures were up 2.3% at $2.819 per million British thermal units.
February gasoline rose 0.7% to $1.5636 a gallon, while February heating oil was up 0.4% at $1.6034 a gallon.