March crude oil prices came under pressure during the early morning hours, sparked by strength in the US dollar and a slight weakening trend in US equity markets. There appear to be fresh concerns regarding European demand following reports that Swiss refiner Petroplus was putting one of its 5 refineries up for sale, with the prospect of selling two more. The market also appears to have an interest in debt swap talks in Greece, which so far has been a slow and tedious process especially since bondholders are expected to take more than a 60% loss on their investment. EIA crude stocks fell 3.438 million barrels last week, quite different than expectations for a 2.0 million barrel build. Current supplies are 4.52 million barrels below year ago levels but stand 9.09 million barrels above the five year average. Crude oil imports for the week came in at 8.265 million barrels per day compared to 9.907 million barrels the previous week. The refinery operating rate was down 1.9% to 83.7%, which compares to 83.0% last year and the five year average of 83.7%.
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