The country's top two refiners SK Energy and GS Caltex bought 2 million barrels of US crude each for October arrival, while its smallest refiner Hyundai Oilbank has also purchased 2 million barrels of medium-sour Mars crude for the first time, the sources said. The actual record was a build that surprised the market.
Price differentials for the medium-sour Mars grade to Dubai quotes on arrival in North Asia have fallen to 50 cents to $1 a barrel, down from indications of $1-$1.50 at the start of July, partly as China avoided USA crude due to potential import tariffs.
Traders said prices rallied early when industry information provider Genscape reported that crude inventories at the Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery hub for US crude, dropped 1.1 million barrels since Friday, July 27. Higher crude output from the Saudis, along with Nigeria and Iraq, pushed up total Opec production by 300,000 barrels a day last month.
Over the past four weeks, refinery inputs averaged 17.41 million barrels per day which was 1.4 percent higher than the same four-week period of a year ago. West Texas Intermediate, the USA benchmark for the price of oil, was down 0.1 percent to $68.89 per barrel.
American oil production in May actually inched down from April by 0.3 percent, according to EIA's Monthly Crude Oil and Natural Gas Production report. "This primary USA oil hub's inventory now sits at the lowest levels since 2014", he said. That's equivalent to about 11.21 million barrels a day, a jump of 140,000 from a month earlier, according to Bloomberg calculations based on the ministry's data.
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Total motor gasoline inventories decreased by 2.5 million barrels last week, but still about 1.4 percent above the levels of the same week a year ago.
Both grades briefly traded down more than $1 a barrel.
West Texas Intermediate crude for September delivery fell to as low as $66.92 per barrel and traded at $67.35 on the New York Mercantile Exchange at 8:57am local time. Total volume traded was about 30 percent below the 100-day average. Over the past four weeks, jet fuel supplied averaged 1.79 million barrels per day, down by 1.7 percent from the same period previous year.
Oil markets have been halting further declines recently after the energy commodity fell too far, too fast on pumped-up production from OPEC, and supply constraints both within the USA overseas have seen oil markets quick to buy, implying that bullish oil traders, while sidelined on rising production, are remaining close at hand.
Traders are also watching rising output from OPEC and its allies following their June accord to increase supply, having faced acute pressure from the U.S. President, Donald Trump, to calm oil prices.