After spiking above $74 a barrel on bullish inventory figures and severe weather concerns, crude oil backed away from its highs late and posted modest gains for the trading session Wednesday.
September West Texas intermediate crude advanced 93 cents to $73.31 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Reformulated gasoline rose 3.5 cents to $2.01 a gallon, and heating oil gained 4 cents to $2.04 a gallon.
Near-term natural gas slid nearly 8 cents to $6.86 per million British thermal units.
The Energy Information Administration released petroleum inventory figures that showed a larger-than-expected decrease in petroleum stores. For the week ended Aug. 10, crude stocks fell by 5.2 million barrels. Analysts were expecting a more modest 2.5 million-barrel decline.
Gasoline inventories were down by 1.1 million barrels, steeper than the 750,000-barrel decrease that analysts were expecting. Roughly 153,000 barrels of distillates were injected into stores, whereas analysts had been expecting a 1.3 million barrel increase.
Refinery utilization climbed 0.5 percentage points to 91.8% during the week.
Meanwhile, two storms are gathering strength and are becoming increasingly disconcerting for energy traders. One of those, Tropical Storm Dean, is currently situated in the mid-Atlantic, has sustained winds of 60 mph and is moving westward at about 20 mph.
The National Hurricane Center predicts that the storm will officially reach hurricane status by the time it gets to the Caribbean. A meteorologist told analysts at The Schork Group that if Dean maintains its current path, it would likely make landfall somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico.
Also, Tropical Storm Erin, with sustained winds near 40 mph, is currently located approximately 250 miles southeast of Corpus Christi, Texas. A tropical storm warning is now in effect for the Texas coast south of Galveston.
Energy stocks ended the session mostly lower. The CBOE Oil Index dropped 2.4% to 702.90.
lost 1.4% to $80.76, and
fell 1.6% to $81.82.
, which plans to merge with
, was upgraded by Bernstein to market perform from underperform. However, its shares gave back 1.9% to $66.03.
was upgraded by Sun Trust Robinson Humphrey to neutral from reduce, lifting its shares 0.8% to $32.26.