Oil prices eased on Wednesday (April 12) after a U.S. government report showed crude stockpiles in the world’s largest energy consumer rose last week to their highest level since 1998, according to Reuters.
But the drop in oil prices, which are still within grasp of a record over $70 a barrel, was limited by lingering concerns over Iran, gasoline availability this summer and interest in the energy sector among big money funds.
U.S. crude prices fell 36 cents to $68.62 a barrel, about $2 below the all-time high struck last summer after Hurricane Katrina toppled U.S. offshore oil rigs and crippled refineries along the Gulf Coast.
The mild decline in crude prices Wednesday was also tempered by fears over potential supply disruptions for gasoline this summer, as U.S. refiners eliminate additive MTBE in favor of ethanol.
U.S. gasoline inventories fell last week by 3.9 million barrels, the EIA said.
“The switch from MTBE to ethanol is a localized problem, but we’re just going to have enough regionalized supply dislocation to keep a bid under this gasoline market until we get through the transition,” said Jim Ritterbusch, president of Ritterbusch and Associates.
U.S. oil prices reached as high as $69.60 earlier in the session, the highest level since Sept. 2.