The per-barrel price of crude advanced ever-so-close to the $100 level overnight, hitting a record of $99.29 per barrel before easing back a bit. At last check, a barrel of crude will cost $98.32, which is 29 cents more than yesterday's close. In yesterday's trading session, the front-month crude contract soared $3.39, or 3.6%, to close at a record of $98.03 per barrel. Crude futures received a boost from the weak U.S. dollar, but the gain has been tempered a bit ahead of this morning's inventory reports.
Expectations call for crude stockpiles to increase by 800,000 barrels, distillates to drop by 400,000 barrels, and gas inventories to increase by 700,000 barrels. Refinery utilization is expected to grow by 0.4 percentage point to 88.1%. According to Platts, expectations call for a drop of 150,000 barrels in crude, a 900,000-barrel jump in gasoline stocks, and a 500,000-barrel contraction in distillates. Obviously, analysts are in conflict over whether or not we will see crude inventories increase; let's see what is in store.