March 18, 2009 / 2:55 PM / 11 years ago

U.S. crude and gasoline stocks up sharply

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. crude oil stocks rose more than expected last week and gasoline posted a surprise build as refiners seasonally boosted motor fuel production, Energy Information Administration weekly data showed on Wednesday.

In reaction to the bearish builds, NYMEX crude oil futures fell $2, or 4 percent, to $47.16 a barrel and gasoline futures fell 5 percent.

“The numbers are bearish. Gasoline traded up to a 4-1/2-month high yesterday so this is a sign that the rally may have been a little bit over extended,” said Gene McGillian, analyst at Tradition Energy in Stamford, Connecticut.

Total commercial crude oil inventories in the United States increased 2 million barrels to 353.3 million barrels for the week ended March 13, EIA reported. The build was twice as large as analysts had forecast.

Crude imports rose 59,000 barrels per day to 9.18 million bpd.

Gasoline supplies rose 3.2 million barrels to 215.7 million barrels, countering forecasts for a 1.2-million-barrel drop, as motor fuel output rose 329,000 bpd to 8.87 million bpd.

Gasoline demand over the past four weeks was 9.04 million bpd, up 1.1 percent from a year ago, EIA added.

“It’s the build in gasoline that was most dramatically bearish since the market was looking for a decline,” said Tim Evans, oil analyst at Citi Futures in New York.

“That build came on a surprising jump in gasoline output. Refineries were apparently restarting gasoline units after maintenance,” Evans said.

Refinery runs increased 64,000 bpd to 14.18 million bpd while refinery utilization in the United States fell 0.6 percentage point to 82.1 percent of capacity, versus a forecast 0.1 percentage point increase.

Inventories of middle distillates, which include heating oil and diesel, were up by 100,000 barrels at 145.5 million barrels, lagging forecasts for a 700,000-barrel rise.

However, heating oil stocks declined 1.0 million barrels to 36.8 million barrels amid some cooler weather in the U.S. Northeast, the world’s biggest market for the home heating fuel.

The EIA data were in line with weekly data from the American Petroleum Institute issued on Tuesday afternoon that showed domestic crude stocks rose 4.7 million barrels last week, gasoline supplies increased 383,000 barrels and distillates gained 327,000 barrels.

Additional reporting by Janet McGurty; Editing by John Picinich

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