[Editor's note: This story was updated at 10:42 a.m. CT March 22.]
U.S. crude oil stocks rose to a fresh record last week, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said March 22, as a surge in imports and rising domestic production more than offset a hike in refinery runs.
Crude stocks in the world's top oil consumer have been building since the beginning of the year and undermining hopes that an OPEC-led deal to cut production will reduce a persistent global glut.
The total amount of crude in U.S. storage rose to a new high led by gains in the East Coast, Rocky Mountains and Midwest, where new regional records were set, according to EIA data.
Crude inventories rose 5 million barrels (MMbbl) in the week to March 17, nearly double expectations for a 2.8 MMbbl build, as imports soared 1.1 MMbbl/d.
Oil stockpiles in the U.S. East Coast, known as PADD 1, rose for the third consecutive week to 20.15 MMbbl. Inventories in the U.S. Midwest, or PADD 2, rose to 154.9 MMbbl. Stocks in the Rocky Mountains, PADD 4, rose to 25.7 MMbbl.
Crude stocks at the Cushing, Okla., delivery hub for U.S. crude futures rose 1.4 MMbbl, the EIA said.
The report immediately resulted in a bout of selling.
U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures extended losses to trade as low as $47.01/bbl after the data, and was last trading 1.6% lower on the day at $47.48 by 9:59 a.m. CT (16:59 GMT). Meanwhile, Brent crude broke through $50/bbl for the first time since Nov. 30, and was last at $50.29/bbl, down 1.3%.
"The market remains nervous about rising U.S. production, which is also reducing the effectiveness of output cuts by the OPEC and some non-OPEC countries," said Abhishek Kumar, Senior energy analyst at Interfax Energy in London.
U.S. production rose modestly to 9.13 MMbbl/d on the week, but has been steadily rising and is higher than year-ago levels.
On the bullish side, the data showed a notable increase in crude processing as refiners come out of seasonal maintenance and begin to gear up for the summer driving season in the United States.
Refinery crude runs rose 329,000 bbl/d as utilization rates rose 2.3 percentage points to 87.4% of capacity, led by higher runs at U.S. Gulf Coast and Midwest refiners.
"This is evidence that refinery maintenance is wrapping up for this season," said David Thompson, executive vice-president at Powerhouse, an energy commodities broker in Washington. "Expect to see increases on balance over the next six to eight weeks."
Gasoline stocks fell 2.8 MMbbl, compared with analysts' expectations in a Reuters poll for a 2 MMbbl drop.
Distillate stockpiles, which include diesel and heating oil, fell by 1.9 MMbbl, vs. expectations for a 1.4 MMbbl drop, the EIA data showed.
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