U.S. crude oil stocks rose last week even as refineries boosted output, while inventories of gasoline and distillates fell, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said March 1.
Crude inventories rose by 1.5 million barrels (MMbbl) in the last week, compared with analysts' expectations for an increase of 3.1 MMbbl.
Oil prices edged lower on the news, erasing gains to trade flat. U.S. crude production rose again to 9.03 MMbbl/d for the week to Feb. 24, according to the EIA. Overall crude stocks in the U.S. hit another record, rising to 520.2 MMbbl.
"The EIA stats don't offer much in the way of surprises this week. The increase in refinery utilization signals that we have likely passed the peak of refinery maintenance for this season. Gasoline demand doesn't decline, but this is cold comfort for the gasoline bulls hoping for a rally," said David Thompson, executive vice president at Powerhouse, an energy-specialized commodities broker in Washington.
Refinery crude runs rose by 393 Mbbl/d, EIA data showed. Refinery utilization rates rose by 1.7 percentage points, a sharp increase even as refiners are in the midst of routine maintenance season.
U.S. crude imports rose last week by 793 Mbbl/d. Exports, meanwhile, fell sharply to 721 Mbbl/d, compared with 1.21 million the week prior; this number is considered a volatile one because of potential shipping delays and other factors.
Gasoline stocks fell by 546 Mbbl, compared with analysts' expectations in a Reuters poll for a drop of 1.8 MMbbl. The price of reformulated blendstock gasoline was down 1.7% to $1.7005 a gallon, compared with $1.7173 prior to the report.
Distillate stockpiles, which include diesel and heating oil, fell by 925 Mbbl, vs. expectations for a 611 Mbbl drop, the EIA data showed.
"We’ve still got this dichotomy in terms of demand where distillate demand is really strong year on year on a four-week moving average, whereas gasoline demand remains in check," said Matt Smith, director of commodity research at energy data provider ClipperData.
Crude stocks at the Cushing, Okla., delivery hub rose by 495 Mbbl, EIA said.
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