NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. crude oil inventories fell last week, while gasoline sticks rose unexpectedly during summer driving season, data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) showed on Wednesday.
The increase in gasoline inventories was the second consecutive build. U.S. crude briefly turned negative on the news, but then recovered to trade fairly flat at $61.10 a barrel.
Crude inventories fell 4.9 million barrels to 462.99 million in the week ending June 19, the EIA said, compared with analysts’ expectations for a decrease of 2.1 million barrels.
Crude stocks at the Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery hub fell 1.87 million barrels, while crude imports dropped 432,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 6.19 million bpd.
“Initially there was some sell-the-fact reaction to the drop in crude inventories and also some expectation that the inventory drop was related to a temporary drop in crude oil imports associated with Tropical Storm Bill,” said Phil Flynn, senior analyst at Price Futures Group in Chicago.
U.S. August crude was up 9 cents at $61.10 a barrel at 11:15 a.m., having seesawed from $60.60 to $61.57.
Brent August crude was up 6 cents at $64.51, having swung from $64.01 to $65.05.
Refinery crude runs rose 250,000 bpd, EIA data showed. Refinery utilization rates inched up 0.9 percentage point to 94.0 percent of capacity.
The U.S. East Coast region’s refinery utilization rate jumped 4.8 percent to 96.2 percent, its highest level since at least 2010.
Gasoline stocks rose 680,000 barrels, while a Reuters poll had yielded an expectation for a 304,000-barrel drop.
“The crude drawdown was sizable and casts the report in a bullish light, but the second consecutive increase in gasoline inventories is a counterweight,” said John Kilduff, partner at Again Capital LLC in New York.
“The demand for crude oil from refiners and gasoline from drivers are both supportive elements, but gasoline’s position as a seasonal leader is fading fast, making its impact transitory,” Kilduff added.
U.S. gasoline demand in the week to June 19 was at its highest level for the period since 1991, according to EIA data. Overall petroleum product demand in the week was the highest for the period since 2007, before the late summer 2008 financial crisis severely pressured global demand for oil.
Distillate stockpiles, which include diesel and heating oil, rose by 1.8 million barrels last week, versus expectations for a million-barrel increase, the EIA data showed.
Reporting by Jessica Resnick-Ault, Robert Gibbons and Barani Krishnan in New York; Editing by Marguerita Choy