March crude oil prices took on a higher track during the initial morning hours, supported by optimism for an agreement on Greek austerity measures and gains in Brent crude oil. January inflation data out of China came in a bit higher than expected, but traders seemed to discount the data as January is typically a volatile month with the Lunar New Year holiday. It also seemed that tensions in the Middle East continued to offer a measure of support to the market. OPEC released their latest monthly report, which lowered their 2012 global oil demand forecast due to economic challenges in the US and Europe. While yesterday's EIA report showed an inventory build of 304,000 barrels that was below market expectations, it was quite different than private industry data that showed a large draw. EIA crude stocks are 5.811 million barrels below year ago levels but stand 8.806 million barrels above the five year average. Perhaps some of the smaller than expected build came from a 5.3% decline in the pace of crude oil imports to a rate of 8.413 million barrels per day. The refinery operating rate was up 1.0% on the week to 82.8%, compared to 84.7% last year and the five year average of 83.42%.
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