Oil prices decline on Hurricane Irma

Oil prices fall as another hurricane set to hit Caribbean coast

US Crude: Another Monster Storm?

On Friday, oil prices eased after almost a week of steep increases as Hurricane Irma, one of the most powerful storms in a century, is steering towards Florida after ripping through the Caribbean.

USA crude oil prices are rising today, trading at levels not seen since earlier August as investors worry whether yet another devastating storm could be heading for US shores.

US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $48.98 barrel, 11 cents below their last settlement. For the week, however, it traded about 1.7% higher, aiming for its first weekly gain in six weeks. Brent crude was down 71 cents, or 1.3 percent, to $53.78 a barrel after reaching its highest level since April at $54.87.

As of Thursday, about 3.8 million barrels of daily USA refining capacity, or about 20 percent, was still shut. As of late Thursday, data from S&P Global Platts showed that 12.8% of USA refinery capacity was down due to the storm.

Additionally, in response to the impact of Harvey which hit the Gulf Coast of Texas on August 25, the EIA said USA oil refinery utilization rates slumped 16.9 percentage points to 79.7 percent last week, the lowest rate since 2010.

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"U.S. crude's length may worsen and put more downward pressure on prices in the next two weeks".

As of September 6, about 3.8 million barrels of daily refining capacity, or 20 percent of the USA total, was shut in, though a number of refineries and petroleum-handling ports were restarting. That was the biggest plunge since September 2005 after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, according to Richard Hastings, macro strategist at Seaport Global Securities.

"Imports (of oil) to the U.S. Gulf Coast fell to levels not seen since the 1990s", ANZ bank said.

Energy prices have continued to gain support from a weak dollar with the United States currency sliding to a 31-month low on a trade-weighted basis.

Port and refinery closures along the Gulf coast and harsh sea conditions in the Caribbean have hit shipping. Production wasn't impacted, the company said it has enough supplies to meet the needs of its wholesale customers, "but we expect intermittent terminal supply outages and will continue working to locate alternate supplies of gasoline, diesel and other refined fuels as needed". To put this into perspective, the five-year average is about 379 million barrels. It is down about 5% for the week. "The impact of the forces of nature on USA oil production should not be overestimated - nor should their impact on demand be underestimated".

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