U.S. oil inventories decline to two-month low, survey shows

U.S. oil stockpiles dropped last week to the lowest level in almost two months as refineries ramped up fuel production, a Bloomberg survey showed.

Crude supplies declined 2.5 million barrels, or 0.7 percent, in the week ended Dec. 7 to 369.3 million, the least since Oct. 12, according to the median of seven analyst estimates surveyed before an Energy Department report on Dec. 12. Six of the respondents forecast a decrease and one projected a gain.

Refinery operation rates stayed at 90.6 percent, the highest since Aug. 24, the survey showed. Oil stockpiles fell 2.36 million barrels in the week ended Nov. 30, down for a third week, the Energy Department reported last week.

“The overall volume of refinery crude runs is likely to have gone up, and that’s going to help convert more crude oil barrels into products,” said Tim Evans, an energy analyst at Citi Futures Perspective in New York.

Crude oil for January delivery slid 37 cents, or 0.4 percent, to settle at $85.56 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Futures are down 13 percent this year.

The Bloomberg survey also showed gasoline stockpiles probably gained 2 million barrels, or 0.9 percent, to 214.1 million. All seven respondents projected an increase. Inventories jumped 7.86 million the previous week to 212.1 million.

Stockpiles of distillate fuel, a category that includes diesel and heating oil, probably rose 1.5 million barrels to 116.6 million, according to the median of responses. All seven respondents forecast an advance. Supplies increased 3.03 million the previous week to 115.1 million.

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