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Oil market trading was cautious on Wednesday, with crude demand and shipments subdued due to refinery closures following Hurricane Harvey and the arrival of an even bigger hurricane in the Caribbean.

Pipelines and terminals have also been restarting over the weekend, assuaging worries over the ability of refineries to get the crude oil they need to operate.

Traders and analysts surveyed by The Wall Street Journal expect on average to see USA oil inventories rose by 5 million barrels in the week ended September 1.

Oil rigs in the United States now number 759-352 rigs above this time a year ago. The lack of US light crude should help support Brent in the week ahead.

The total oil and gas rig count in the United States, post Harvey, now stands at 943 rigs, up 446 rigs from the year prior, with the number of oil rigs in the United States flat this week and the number of gas rigs increasing by 3.

While much of the region's refining infrastructure still remained offline from Harvey, which made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane last week and drenched Texas as a tropical storm, the restarts were a first step in alleviating concerns about US fuel supplies. At its peak, Harvey shuttered 27 percent of US processing capacity. We'll also analyze USA commercial crude oil inventories and their impact on oil prices in Part 3 of this series. In total, the storm will have added about 40 million barrels to U.S. crude stockpiles in the month following Harvey's landfall, according to the bank.

But in recent months those expectations dimmed. Gasoline prices eased recently as some refineries reopened. At around 9:20 AM CST today, the USA benchmark was trading at US$48.65 a barrel, up 2.88 percent.

It won't be clear what will happen to oil prices until we know what kind of damage coastal facilities have sustained, but the possibility of higher prices can't be ruled out. Analysts called that a bad omen for the rest of the summer.

In contrast, gasoline spot prices remained stable or fell in the days after Hurricane Sandy, which hit the U.S. East Coast, and Hurricane Ike made landfall.

Oil companies began reporting potential earnings impacts of shuttered Eagle Ford shale drilling operations.

"This is kind of a boomerang", said John Kilduff, partner at energy hedge fund Again Capital, noting that just after the storm, the fear was gasoline shortages.

Exxon lost almost 100,000 bpd of production, and Shell has so far lost more than 700,000 bpd.

In the short term, Harvey's impact could be globally significant.


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