U.S. crude stockpiles fell less than expected last week, while gasoline inventories grew as demand remained weak, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said May 3, keeping concerns about global supply on a simmer.
Crude inventories fell by 930,000 barrels (bbl) in the week to April 28, much less than analysts' expectations for a decrease of 2.3 million bbl. Although crude stocks have steadily declined for the last four weeks, at 527.8 million bbl they still 3% higher from this time a year ago.
"It has been another fairly uninspiring report for the bulls," said Matt Smith, director of commodity research at ClipperData.
The oil markets turned negative immediately after the report. West Texas Intermediate crude futures was down 16 cents at $47.50/bbl by 9:50 a.m. CT (14:50 GMT), while Brent fell 10 cents to $50.36/bbl.
Analysts said the declines came in part after May 2's data from industry group the American Petroleum Institute, which showed bigger drawdowns.
Stocks at the Cushing, Okla., delivery hub for U.S. crude futures fell 728,000 bbl, EIA said.
U.S. crude production rose modestly again, and currently sits at 9.29 million bbl/d, highest since August 2015, while imports fell by 34,000 bbl/d.
Gasoline stocks rose by 191,000 bbl, compared with expectations in a Reuters poll for a 1.3 million bbl gain.
Stocks of the motor fuel, at 241.2 million bbl, were still 10% higher than the seasonal average over the past decade, as gasoline demand for the past four weeks was down by 2.7% from the year-ago period.
"This is continuing a trend since the beginning of the year in which sales have been lower and that is casting a shadow on the market and pressuring crude oil prices," said Andrew Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates in Houston.
Refinery crude runs inched down from record highs, slipping 108,000 bbl/d, to 17.2 million bbl/d, as utilization rates fell 0.8 percentage points to 93.3% of capacity, EIA data showed.
Distillate stockpiles, which include diesel and heating oil, fell by 562,000 bbl, vs. expectations for a 723,000 bbl-increase, the EIA data showed.
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