January crude oil prices traded lower throughout the early morning hours, pressured by gains in the US dollar, soaring borrowing costs in Italy and ideas that the European economy could be falling into recession. Ongoing challenges in Europe were a key factor that helped offset what might have otherwise been a bullish inventory report Wednesday, according to some traders. EIA crude stocks fell 6.219 million barrels, which was quite a bit larger than expected. US crude supplies are 27.81 million barrels below year ago levels and 3.423 million barrels below the five year average. Crude oil imports for the week stood at 8.319 million barrels per day compared to 8.565 million barrels the previous week. The refinery operating rate was up 0.7% to 85.5%, compared to 85.5% last year and the five year average of 85.88%. Some traders indicated that the crude oil market could be garnering support from talk of more sanctions against Iran, this time from France.
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