Crude futures were holding on to slight gains late in a volatile day of trading at the New York Mercantile Exchange.
August light sweet crude rose 22 cents to $71.63 a barrel, and reformulated gasoline was fractionally higher at $2.27 a gallon. Heating oil edged up a penny to $2.07 a gallon.
Natural gas continued its precipitous slide that began in mid-June, falling 17 cents to $6.58 per million British thermal units.
Oil soared above the $72 mark early in the session, but bearish petroleum inventory figures released by the Energy Information Administration hammered the August contract as low as $70.80 before allowing it to rebound.
The inventory report for the week ended June 29 showed surprisingly large increases in stocks. Crude stores grew by 3.2 million barrels, whereas analysts were expecting a 200,000 barrel reduction.
Gasoline inventories rose by 1.9 million barrels, roughly four times the increase expected. The EIA also reported a 1.2 million barrel injection for distillate stores. Analysts were expecting a 500,000 barrel increase.
Refinery utilization rates grew 0.6 percentage points to 90% during the previous week, allowing refineries to increase their processing of crude oil into gasoline. Motor gasoline inventories are now 4 million barrels below the low end of the average range for this time of year. This is up from a 15 million barrel shortage in early spring.
Meanwhile, energy stocks are mostly trading to the downside. The
CBOE Oil Index
is down 0.5% at 774.68.
was upgraded by BMO Capital Markets to outperform from market perform, lifting the stock 1% to $34.82.