By Ethan Lou
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Oil prices jumped more than 2 percent on Wednesday, with U.S. crude settling at its highest in 15 months after the government reported a surprisingly large drop in inventories for the sixth week out of seven.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said crude stocks fell 5.2 million barrels in the week ended Oct. 14, versus forecasts for a 2.7-million barrel build.
Crude stocks generally rise at this time of year as refineries go into maintenance. Refinery utilization is down to 85 percent from nearly 94 percent in early September.
The EIA said U.S. crude imports
"This lowest import pace in some 16 months is surprising given the fact that OPEC production has recently attained a record level that would imply easy availability," said Jim Ritterbusch of Chicago-based oil markets consultancy Ritterbusch & Associates.
U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude's front-month contract, November
With expiry due on Thursday, the November contract saw lighter trades than December WTI
London-traded Brent crude
Some market participants were not impressed by the crude inventory drop, citing instead the large gasoline build of 2.5 million barrels for last week versus forecasts for a 1.3 million-barrel drop.
"While the headline number was bullish, we wouldn't call it extremely bullish," said Tariq Zahir, crude trader at Tyche Capital Advisors in New York.
Oil prices have rallied 15 percent in the three weeks after the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries proposed to enforce from November its first output cut since 2008.
Khalid al-Falih, energy minister of Saudi Arabia, which dominates OPEC, told the Oil & Money conference in London "fundamentals are improving and the market is clearly balancing" after prices fell below $30 from 2014 highs above $100.
But Rex Tillerson, chief executive of Exxon Mobil
In industry news, Enbridge, Canada's largest pipeline company, said it was shedding 5 percent of its workforce, the second layoff of that size since oil prices crashed in 2014.
(Additional reporting by Amanda Cooper in LONDON, Henning Gloystein in SINGAPORE and Barani Krishnan in NEW YORK; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli and David Gregorio)
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)