(Reuters) - U.S. crude oil inventories last week slumped to their lowest levels since January as refining rose and imports fell, while gasoline stocks also fell sharply ahead of the Fourth of July holiday weekend, the Energy Information Administration said on Thursday.
Crude inventories fell 6.3 million barrels in the week to June 30, far more than analysts’ forecasts for a 2.3 million-barrel drawdown, to 502.9 million barrels.
U.S. crude imports fell 514,000 barrels per day (bpd) last week as refinery crude runs rose 251,000 bpd and refining utilization rates gained 1.1 percentage points to 93.6 percent of nationwide capacity.
Crude stocks at the Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery hub for U.S. crude futures fell 1.3 million barrels, EIA said.
Oil prices rose on the news, reversing Wednesday’s selloff as the data will help assuage concerns about weak demand keeping inventories high during the key summer months.
U.S. crude futures rose $1.03 to $46.17 a barrel, a 2.3 percent increase, while Brent futures were up $1.03 to $48.82 a barrel by 11:22 a.m. EDT (1522 GMT).
Gasoline stocks fell 3.7 million barrels, compared with analysts’ expectations in a Reuters poll for a 1.1 million-barrel drop.
Although gasoline inventories have dropped to 237.3 million barrels, that figure is still 6 percent higher than the five-year average, and demand over the past four weeks is down 1.8 percent from a year ago.
“Gasoline demand continues to be down versus last year, taking away some of the bullish aspects of the report. With the Fourth of July holiday behind us, demand will remain lackluster,” said John Kilduff, partner at Again Capital LLC in New York.
Refinery crude runs rose by 251,000 barrels per day, EIA data showed.
Distillate stockpiles, which include diesel and heating oil, fell 1.9 million barrels, versus expectations for a 217,000-barrel increase, the EIA data showed.
Crude production rose markedly, rebounding from storm-related effects that reduced output for the prior week. Overall production rose to 9.34 million bpd, up 88,000 bpd from the week-earlier period.
Reporting By David Gaffen; Editing by Marguerita Choy