Oil futures settle slightly higher after drop in US rig count

New York (Platts)--25 Nov 2015 430 pm EST/2130 GMT

Oil futures inched higher Wednesday on signs of falling US crude production and oil drilling activity, as the market pared declines toward the end of the session.

NYMEX January crude settled up 17 cents to $43.04/b after having been as low as $41.72/b at one point. ICE January Brent settled 5 cents higher at $46.17/b.

Refined product futures were almost unchanged. NYMEX December ULSD settled 30 points higher at $1.4027/gal, while NYMEX December RBOB settled up 59 points at $1.3961/gal.

The oil complex spent early Wednesday in the red as prices retreated from Tuesday's surge that was sparked by Turkish forces downing a Russian military jet near the Syrian border.

The Russian jet incident created a sense of nervousness in the market that by Wednesday was starting to ease as "cooler heads prevailed," Peter Donovan, a broker at Liquidity Energy, said.

Prices failed to move in reaction to the US Energy Information Administration's weekly inventory report that showed a build in crude, distillate and gasoline stocks.

US commercial crude oil stocks built 961,000 barrels to 488.247 million barrels in the week ended November 20, EIA said.

Gasoline stocks rose 2.478 million barrels last week to 216.732 million barrels, while distillate stocks increased 1.046 million barrels to 141.364 million barrels.

"The overall impression of this week's data is neutral," Torbjorn Kjus, oil market analyst at DNB Bank said in a note.

A crude stock build was already priced into the market after the American Petroleum Institute reported Tuesday an even larger rise of 2.6 million barrels, he said.

"So when the stock build only became 1 million barrels this was not able to give much of an impulse to the market," Kjus said.

Some bullish statistics did emerge on the production side. US output fell 17,000 b/d last week to 9.156 million b/d, EIA said. That included a drop of 26,000 b/d in production from the Lower 48 States to 8.637 million b/d.

Separately, Baker Hughes reported the US oil rig count fell by nine to 555 in the week ending Wednesday.

The number of active US oil rigs has contracted steadily since September and now stands 66% below its peak of 1,609 rigs in October 2014.

--Geoffrey Craig, geoffrey.craig@platts.com
--Edited by Richard Rubin, richard.rubin@platts.com

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