Oil prices hold firm as traders wait on U.S. stockpile data for signs of where demand is heading

Environment

Crude oil futures held firm on Wednesday as traders waited for the latest round of U.S. inventory data for signs of whether gasoline demand is picking up.

U.S. crude oil gained about 6% last month on expectations of a tighter third quarter with stockpiles forecast to draw down as summer fuel demand picked up. The Department of Energy will release the latest U.S. crude oil and gasoline stockpiles data at 10:30 a.m. ET.

Gasoline prices are averaging $3.51 per gallon ahead of the Fourth of July holiday, up about 2 cents from last week, according to the motorist association AAA.

Here are today’s energy prices:

  • West Texas Intermediate August contract: $82.86 per barrel, up 6 cents. Year to date, U.S. oil has gained 15.7%.
  • Brent September contract: $86.32 per barrel, up 8 cents. Year to date, the global benchmark is ahead by 12%.
  • RBOB Gasoline August contract: $2.56 per gallon, down 0.68%. Year to date, gasoline is up 21.6%.
  • Natural Gas August contract: $2.44 per thousand cubic feet, up 0.41%. Year to date, gas is down 2.7%.

Hurricane Beryl is barreling across the Caribbean and could hit the Texas Gulf Coast as a tropical storm on Saturday. However, according to a National Hurricane Center update on Tuesday, the forecast is uncertain.

Helima Croft, global head of commodity strategy at RBC Capital Markets, said the impact of hurricanes on the oil market has become less clear as the U.S. is no longer as dependent on offshore oil production. Refinery shutdowns could be a bearish event by restricting demand.

“We used to think about hurricanes as unquestionably a potential bullish near-term development for oil markets, now the picture is not so clear,” Croft told CNBC’s “Last Call” on Tuesday evening.

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