ISSN: 2056-3736 (Online Version) | 2056-3728 (Print Version)


The gap between U.S. and global oil prices narrowed Wednesday on news that the U.S. government has allowed some exports of a form of ultralight oil, which some analysts say could lead to a broader relaxation of the country’s export ban. Light, sweet crude for August delivery rose as high as $107.50 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange after The Wall Street Journal reported the news. Prices recently traded up 4 cents at $106.07 a barrel. Brent crude on ICE Futures Europe fell $1, or 0.9%, to $113.46 a barrel.

In separate rulings that haven’t been announced, the Commerce Department gave Pioneer Natural Resources Co. and Enterprise Products Partners LP permission to ship a type of ultralight oil known as condensate to foreign buyers. The buyers could turn the oil into gasoline, jet fuel and diesel.

The U.S. has had a ban on crude-oil exports since the 1970s, but producers have lobbied to lift the ban in recent months as U.S. production continues to grow.

News of the ruling raised some market watchers’ expectations that the federal government is open to more broadly relaxing the export ban, allowing producers to sell U.S. oil at world prices, which are higher than U.S. prices.

“We view the expanding definition of refined products as a positive, and a step closer to greater export opportunities,” said Morgan Stanley analysts in a note Wednesday.

The gap between the benchmark U.S. and global contracts narrowed from $8.43 a barrel on Tuesday to $7.39 a barrel.

U.S. price gains were tempered by an industry report released late Tuesday that showed that U.S. stockpiles unexpectedly grew last week.

The American Petroleum Institute, an industry group, said late Tuesday crude stocks rose by four million barrels last week. A Wall Street Journal survey had called for stockpiles to fall by 1.2 million barrels.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration is due to release its data at 10:30 a.m. EDT.

Front-month July reformulated gasoline blendstock, or RBOB, recently fell 2.55 cents, or 0.8%, to $3.1003 a gallon. July diesel fell 1.73 cents, or 0.6%, to $3.0243 a gallon.

By Nicole Friedman