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Column: Crude sinks as supplies rise


Crude oil prices tumbled this week to the lowest price since early July, trading at less than $85 per barrel on Wednesday. During the course of a week, prices collapsed more than $7.50 (- 8.1 percent) amidst rising supplies.

U.S. crude oil inventories are currently near 375 million barrels nationwide, around 12 percent higher than the average supply for this time of year, and a record supply for this week since the Department of Energy began keeping records of weekly supply data in 1982.

Despite the high crude oil supply levels, gasoline and diesel fuel stockpiles are well below average.

This has resulted partially from supply inefficiencies that have trapped a large volume of the crude oil in the Upper Midwest with few refineries nearby to process the crude into gasoline and diesel fuel. At the same time, other regions of the country, like California and New England, are dependent on importing foreign oil to feed their refineries, which has contributed to sharply higher prices in those areas.

Global oil prices remain higher the U.S. prices because of ongoing supply threats, especially in the Mideast. As of midday Friday, U.S. crude oil for delivery during December was worth $86, while Brent crude, a major European benchmark, commanded a 26 percent premium at $109 per barrel.

Sugar prices sour

Sugar prices fell to the lowest price in nearly two years, dropping to 19.28 cents per pound on Friday morning. Prices are under pressure because of a rapid Brazilian sugarcane harvest. Brazil is the world’s largest sugar producer and controls almost 40 percent of the world’s sugar exports.

In addition to being a household staple, sugar is a major feedstock for ethanol production. Although nearly 14 billion gallons of corn-based ethanol is produced in the United States each year, Brazil produces more than 5 billion gallons using sugarcane. As a result, Midwest farmers and drivers can watch the price of sugar to gain greater perspective on the corn and gasoline markets. As of midday Friday, sugar for March delivery was worth 19.3 cents per pound.

Walt Breitinger is president of Breitinger & Sons, a commodity futures brokerage firm in Valparaiso. He can be reached at (800) 411-3888 or This is not a solicitation of any order to buy or sell any market.