Oil Maintains Gain on Bigger-Than-Expected Supply Drop

Oil futures maintained gains after a U.S. government report showed a bigger-than-expected decline in inventories.

Supplies fell 7.43 million barrels to 357.1 million barrels last week, the Energy Department said today. Inventories were forecast to decline 4.95 million barrels, according to the median of 12 analyst estimates in a Bloomberg survey.

Crude oil for October delivery advanced $1.76, or 1.8 percent, to $97.12 a barrel at 11:06 a.m. on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Oil traded at $97.42 a barrel before release of the inventory report at 11 a.m.

The figures were published a day later than usual because of the U.S. Labor Day holiday on Sept. 3.

Futures also advanced as the European Central Bank announced specifics of its bond-buying plan and data boosted optimism in the labor market. ECB President Mario Draghi said policy makers agreed to an unlimited bond-purchase program.

The ECB will target government bonds with maturities of one to three years, including longer-dated debt that has a residual maturity of that length, Draghi said at a press conference in Frankfurt after the ECB held its benchmark rate at a record low of 0.75 percent. Purchases will be fully sterilized, meaning that the overall impact on the money supply will be neutral, and the ECB will not have seniority, he said.

Jobs Reports

Companies in the U.S. added 201,000 workers in August, according to figures from Roseland, New Jersey-based ADP Employer Services. Jobless claims fell by 12,000 to 365,000 in the week ended Sept. 1, the fewest in a month, the Labor Department reported today in Washington.

The Labor Department’s report tomorrow may show overall hiring, which includes government jobs, climbed 127,000 last month after rising 163,000 in July, according to the Bloomberg survey median. The jobless rate has held above 8 percent since February 2009.

The U.S. was the biggest crude-consuming country last year, responsible for 21 percent of demand, according to BP Plc (BP/)’s Statistical Review of World Energy released in June. The 27 members of the European Union accounted for 16 percent of global oil demand in 2011, BP said.