|Crude oil inventories (weekly change)||-7.1M barrels||0.6M barrels|
|Gasoline (weekly change)||8.3M barrels||-1.6M barrels|
|Distillates (weekly change)||10.1M barrels||-1.9M barrels|
Crude oil inventories fell 7.1 million barrels in the December 30 week to 479.0 million, which is 6.2 percent above the level in the same period of the prior year. But product inventories increased in the week, with gasoline rising 8.3 million barrels to 235.5 million, up 1.5 percent from the previous year at this time, while distillates rose 10.1 million barrels to 161.7 million, 1.4 percent above the level of the previous year.
Crude oil imports averaged about 7.2 million barrels per day in the week, down by 984,000 barrels from the previous week. Imports over the last four weeks averaged 7.8 million barrels per day, 0.5 percent more than in the prior year during the same period.
Refineries operated at 92 percent of their operable capacity, up 1 percentage point from last week, but production of gasoline nevertheless decreased, averaging about 9.5 million barrels per day. Production of distillate fuel did rise, averaging over 5.3 million barrels per day.
On the demand side, total products supplied over the last four weeks averaged 19.6 million barrels per day, down 0.5 percent from the same period in the prior year. Of this amount, supplied gasoline averaged 9.0 million barrels per day, down by 0.2 percent from the prior year, while distillates averaged 3.8 million barrels, up 8.1 percent.
The Energy Information Administration (EIA) provides weekly information on petroleum inventories in the U.S., whether produced here or abroad. The level of inventories helps determine prices for petroleum products.
Petroleum product prices are determined by supply and demand - just like any other good and service. During periods of strong economic growth, one would expect demand to be robust. If inventories are low, this will lead to increases in crude oil prices - or price increases for a wide variety of petroleum products such as gasoline or heating oil. If inventories are high and rising in a period of strong demand, prices may not need to increase at all, or as much. During a period of sluggish economic activity, demand for crude oil may not be as strong. If inventories are rising, this may push down oil prices.
Crude oil is an important commodity in the global market. Prices fluctuate depending on supply and demand conditions in the world. Since oil is such an important part of the economy, it can also help determine the direction of inflation. In the U.S., consumer prices have moderated whenever oil prices have fallen, but have accelerated when oil prices have risen.