Oil: strong supplies and lower capacity

Oil: strong supplies and lower capacity

Weekly data on crude oil supplies showed a rise for the ninth week in a row Wednesday, with a 3.6 percent rise, putting the total supply at 320.7 million barrels.

This is the highest figure since June 2002.

But the U.S. Energy Department figures also put the operating capacity of U.S. refineries at 91 percent, down from 93.7 percent in the previous report.

This, coupled with data showing gasoline use up 1.4 percent the past four weeks compared with the same time last year as the summer driving season draws near, combined to push crude oil higher Thursday.

Nymex WTI, which hit a seven-week low at $50.06 early, then rose to $50.37 on May delivery contracts, a 15 cent rise. Brent went up 40 cents on May contracts, to $50.88 and was up 42 cents to $51.80 on June deliveries.

These prices are still lower than when they hit all time highs on Monday of last week, when Nymex peaked at $58.28 and Brent rose to $57.65.

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