U.S. crude oil stockpiles rose unexpectedly last week, climbing to their highest since 2017 amid a release from the national emergency reserve, while gasoline inventories decreased more than forecast, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said May 15.

Crude inventories rose by 5.4 million barrels in the last week, compared with analysts' expectations for a decrease of 800,000 barrels.

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Nearly 1.8 million barrels was added to supply through the release from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR). The U.S. Energy Department said in February it was offering up to 6 million barrels of sweet crude oil for delivery in May from the SPR in a sale mandated by a previous law to raise funds to modernize the facility.

Overall crude inventories, not including the SPR, rose to 472 million in the latest week, their highest since September, 2017 and about 2% above the five year average for this time of year, according to EIA data.

"The report was bearish due to the large crude oil inventory build," said John Kilduff, a partner at Again Capital Management in New York. "There was also a large increase in crude oil inventories at the Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery hub, which adds to the bearishness of the report."

Crude stocks at the Cushing delivery hub for U.S. crude futures rose by 1.8 million barrels to 47.8 million barrels, their highest since December 2017, the data showed.

Oil prices fell after the data, although by 10:46 a.m. CDT (15:46 GMT), U.S. crude futures was up 27 cents a barrel at $62.05 and Brent crude gained 75 cents at $71.99 a barrel.

The increase in crude stocks came despite higher refinery utilization and a rise in exports.

Net U.S. crude imports fell last week by 106,000 barrels per day (bbl/d) as exports alone soared over 1 million bpd to nearly 3.4 million bbl/d, just short of the record highs touched in February.

Refinery crude runs rose by 271,000 bbl/d as refinery utilization rates rose by 1.6 percentage points to 90.5% of total capacity, its highest since February, the EIA data showed.

More bullish especially just ahead of summer driving season, gasoline stocks fell by 1.1 million barrels, compared with analysts' expectations in a Reuters poll for a 299,000-barrel drop. At 225 million barrels, gasoline stocks were about 2% below the five year average for this time of year.

Distillate stockpiles, which include diesel and heating oil, rose by 84,000 barrels, vs. expectations for a 1 million-barrel drop, the EIA data showed.