OIL ENDS LOWER AS TRADERS WEIGH SUPPLY DECLINE, RIG COUNT & OPEC

Oil futures finished Wednesday with a minor loss, with weakness cushioned by the first weekly decline in U.S. crude supplies in a month.

Traders, however, remained wary as data show another weekly rise in active domestic oil-drilling rigs a week ahead of a closely watched meeting of top producers.

Natural-gas futures, meanwhile, ended at its highest level in over three weeks after a U.S. government report revealed the first weekly decline in supplies of the fuel in several months.

January West Texas Intermediate crude CLF7, +0.15%  fell by 7 cents, or 0.2%, to settle at $47.96 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, extending a modest loss from a day earlier. January Brent crude LCOF7, -0.49%  on London’s ICE Futures exchange lost 17 cents, or 0.4%, to end at $48.95 a barrel.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration early Wednesday reported that domestic crude supplies in the week ended Nov. 18 fell by 1.3 million barrels. Inventories had climbed in each of the past three weeks.

The weekly decline matched the one reported by the American Petroleum Institutelate Tuesday. Analysts polled by S&P Global Platts expected crude supplies to be unchanged, while a survey from The Wall Street Journal forecast an increase of 800,000 barrels.

“A combination of much higher refinery runs and much lower imports have combined to draw down crude inventories,” said Matt Smith, director of commodity research at ClipperData.

Gasoline supplies climbed 2.3 million barrels and distillate stockpiles, which include heating oil, also rose by 300,000 barrels, according to the EIA.

“A solid build to gasoline inventories comes amid higher gasoline production and lower implied demand on the week,” said Smith. “Distillate implied demand was stronger to mop up the increased product refined.”

“On the whole, the report is a welcome distraction from OPEC talk, but fairly neutral on the whole—tilted mildly bullish for crude, somewhat bearish for the products,” he said.

On Nymex, December gasoline RBZ6, +0.25%  rose by 1.2 cents, or 0.8%, to $1.422 a gallon, while December heating oil HOZ6, +0.11%  ended down by just under a cent, or 0.6%, at $1.517 a gallon.

Also Wednesday, data from Baker Hughes BHI, +0.70%  revealed that the number of active U.S. rigs drilling for oil climbed by 3 to 474 rigs this week. The data came ahead of the usual Friday release because of Thursday’s Thanksgiving holiday.

Oil prices saw further pressure from a sharp gain in the U.S. dollar, with the ICE U.S. Dollar Index DXY, +0.70%  trading at a 13-year high, said John Macaluso, an analyst at Tyche Capital Advisors. “In a week where volume should be light, strength in the U.S. dollar” could continue to pressure crude prices for the session.

Elsewhere in the energy market, natural-gas futures rose as data from EIA, released early because of the holiday, revealed that supplies of the fuel fell by 2 billion cubic feet for the week ended Nov. 18. Analysts polled by S&P Global Platts expected an increase of 2 billion cubic feet.

The supply withdrawal was the first of the winter season and the first drop since July—”when we had a counter-seasonal withdrawal due to soaring temperatures,” said ClipperData’s Smith. “This cements last week’s record storage level of 4,047 Bcf as the peak of storage for this year, as colder temperatures spur on higher demand—and withdrawals—going forward.”

December natural gas NGZ16, -0.36%  rose 4.4 cents, or 1.5%, to $3.026 per million British thermal units, ahead of the contract’s expiration at the settlement Monday. The settlement was the highest for the contract since Oct. 31, FactSet data show.

On Thursday, there will be no U.S. floor trading for metals and energy futures on Comex and Nymex due to the Thanksgiving Day holiday. Futures exchange operator CME Group mandates an early close of 1:45 p.m. Eastern Friday for its energy and metals trading businesses.

http://www.marketwatch.com/

.