Supply concerns send oil higher
A report brought questions about the market's ability to meet increased demand. Per-barrel prices topped $62.
NEW YORK - Oil prices rose above $62 a barrel yesterday after a report from the International Energy Agency raised concerns about the market's ability to meet an expected jump in demand for oil-based products.
The agency said the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries needed to increase output soon. It expressed concern over the ability of refiners and OPEC's willingness to meet an expected jump in oil-product demand of 1.6 million barrels a day in June.
Suggestions by OPEC officials that there is no need to boost its production levels "appear wide of the mark," the agency said. "Steady output at current levels would lead [to OPEC] undershooting our calculated range for the call on its crude, and thus tightening stocks further."
Light, sweet crude for June delivery rose 56 cents to settle at $62.37 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
A day earlier, crude prices had risen amid broader gains in energy futures as traders noticed a gas-supply imbalance in Wednesday's government inventory report.
The Energy Information Administration reported that gasoline stocks rose an average of 400,000 barrels last week, the first increase in 13 weeks. But a closer inspection showed much of that increase was due to a 1.1-million-barrel increase in inventories on the West Coast only, not across the country.
Gasoline supplies in the last two weeks are at the lowest levels since October 2005, after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, said Tim Evans, an energy analyst at Citigroup Global Markets.
The news caused gasoline futures for June delivery to jump 9.52 cents to $2.3261 a gallon Thursday, and the U.S. national average price of gas at the pump rose to $3.037 a gallon. Yesterday, gas futures gained 2.6 cents to settle at $2.3521 a gallon.
With the start of the summer driving season only weeks away, analysts are concerned that gasoline supplies, although rising, won't meet demand. Unplanned outages and scheduled maintenance at refineries, sluggish imports, and strong demand have plagued gasoline stocks since early February. At least a dozen additional partial shutdowns have occurred in the United States and internationally that cut refining capacity.
Continued violence in Nigeria, Africa's largest oil producer and a leading supplier to the United States, has also been supporting higher oil prices. Kidnappings continued this week, and insurgents staged coordinated attacks on three pipelines in the wetlands region, halting production of nearly 100,000 barrels a day of crude oil.