January crude oil prices traded fractionally higher during the initial morning hours supported by optimism that European leaders might reach an agreement to tackle their debt issue. Some traders suggested that early support in crude oil might have also come from reports that Syrian terrorists blew up a key pipeline used to transport oil in the region. January crude oil prices came under pressure yesterday in the wake of inventory data that showed an unexpected build. EIA crude stocks rose 1.336 million barrels. This brought current inventories to 19.789 million barrels below year ago levels but 5.551 million barrels above the five year average. Some of that unexpected build came from a surge in imports to rate of 9.436 million barrels per day compared to 9.061 million barrels the previous week. The other surprise feature in yesterday's report was the surge in the refinery operating rate, up 3.1% to 87.7%, compared to 87.5% last year and the five year average of 86.77%.