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Are Crude OIl Prices Bottoming?

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Crude oil prices climbed higher during the past week, which has led to speculation that prices might have hit a bottom.  This comes despite robust supply from production around the globe.  Although there have been continued declines in U.S. rig counts, the import of crude oil into the U.S. will likely take the place of any drop off in domestic production.

According to the Department of Energy, total U.S. crude oil production averaged an estimated 9.2 million barrels per day in December. Forecast total crude oil production averages 9.3 million barrels a day in 2015. Under the governments price forecast, projected crude oil production averages 9.5 million barrels a day in 2016, which would be the second-highest annual average level of production in U.S.history.  At the same time the recent drop of in drill rigs as reported by Baker Hughes, has been met with increasing imports.  Over the last four weeks, crude oil imports averaged 7.4 million barrels per day, 0.5% above the same four-week period last year.

Inventories in the U.S. continue to rise.  According to the Energy Information Administration, U.S. crude oil inventories) increased by 6.3 million barrels from the previous week. At 413.1 million barrels, U.S. crude oil inventories are at the highest level for this time of year in at least the last 80 years.

The recent rise in crude oil from $44 per barrel to $51 per barrel has slightly pushed up the price of gasoline. The U.S. average price for retail gasoline rose last week for the first time since September, increasing two cents to $2.07 per gallon as of February 2, 2015, $1.22 per gallon less than the same time last year.

The technical outlook for prices look positive.  WTI has attempted to move lower by has not been able to move above the 20-day moving average near $47.75.  A break of resistance near $54.25 would likely generate a test of $60 level.  Momentum has turned positive, as the MACD (moving average convergence divergence) index recently generated a buy signal and is printing in positive territory with an upward sloping trajectory.

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