U.S. crude oil stockpiles rose last week for the fourth straight week, led by a notable increase in inventories at the Cushing, Okla., hub, while gasoline and distillate stocks fell, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said Oct. 17.
Crude inventories rose 6.5 million barrels in the week to Oct. 12, nearly three times analysts' expectations for an increase of 2.2 million barrels.
Stocks at Cushing, the delivery hub for U.S. crude futures, rose by 1.8 million barrels, EIA said.
Oil prices sunk on the news, with U.S. crude futures slipping through $70 a barrel for the first time in nearly a month. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude was down nearly 3% to $69.82 a barrel, while Brent crude dropped 2.3% to $79.46 a barrel. Prices have been pulling back in recent days as inventory levels have risen.
"The report was bearish, given the large crude oil inventory rise. Exports plunged for the week, down almost 800,000 bbl/d, and that data series has quite variable, of late," said John Kilduff, partner at Again Capital Management in New York.
While net U.S. crude imports rose last week by 1 million barrels per day (bbl/d), crude exports slipped to 1.8 million bbl/d. But for the last four weeks, exports averaged 2.1 million bbl/d, a 33% increase from the year-ago period.
Refinery crude runs rose by 77,000 bbl/d, EIA data showed.
Refinery utilization rates remained unchanged at 88.8% of capacity. Utilization rates in the Midwest, the second largest refining region of the country, fell to new record lows of 70% of available capacity, due to a combination of outages and scheduled maintenance.
Gasoline stocks fell by 2 million barrels, compared with analysts' expectations in a Reuters poll for a 1.1 million-barrel drop.
Distillate stockpiles, which include diesel and heating oil, fell by 827,000 barrels, vs. expectations for a 1.3 million-barrel drop, the EIA data showed.
Asian liquefied natural gas (LNG) prices slumped this week on a flood of spot volumes amid subdued demand.
Democratic presidential hopeful Amy Klobuchar on Saturday called for revamping the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) rules governing how small refineries are exempted from the nation's biofuel laws, a proposal aimed at boosting her standing in the politically critical state of Iowa.
With high inventories and limited export possibilities, NGL prices drop and margins are squeezed.