Crude Oil Futures Rise to Record High

New petroleum inventory figures send prices higher.
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Crude oil futures set another record high Wednesday after the Energy Information Administration released new petroleum inventory figures that traders interpreted as bullish.

West Texas crude for May delivery climbed 79 cents to $114.58 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude gained 78 cents to $112.36 a barrel. Reformulated gasoline rose 5 cents to $2.93 a gallon. Heating oil edged fractionally higher to $3.28 a gallon.

Near-term natural gas jumped 28 cents to $10.49 per million British thermal units.

The EIA inventory report showed that crude stores dropped by 2.4 million barrels during the week ending April 11. According to a Bloomberg survey, analysts were expecting a 1.8 million barrel increase in crude stores.

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Gasoline stores fell by 5.5 million barrels vs. analyst estimates of a 1.8 million barrel draw. Distillate inventories grew by 52,000 barrels, compared with the 1.7 million barrel draw forecasted by analysts.

Large withdrawals from inventories often suggest high demand for the related product.

However, refinery utilization fell by more than a percentage point to 81.4%, an abnormally low number for this time of year. This indicates that refineries purchased less oil during the week than they did last week. "Refiners have slammed on the brakes because of the high price of oil," said Tim Evans, energy analyst at Citigroup Global Markets. "Refining margins are so low that they can't make any money by turning oil into gasoline, so they aren't buying any oil. This is what caused crude stores to fall."

Meanwhile, energy equities moved to the upside during the trading session.

BP

(BP) - Get Report

climbed 2.3% to $66.96 a share.

Chevron

(CVX) - Get Report

rose 1.25% to $91.30.

Royal Dutch Shell

(RDS.A)

advanced 2.75% to 75.84,

and Exxon Mobil

(XOM) - Get Report

moved 1.4% higher to $92.11 a share.