U.S. crude stockpiles rise to record for fourth straight week: EIA

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. crude stockpiles last week rose to a record high for a fourth straight week even as distillate and gasoline inventories fell significantly more than expected, data from the Energy Information Administration showed on Wednesday.

A motorist pumps fuel into her vehicle at JJ's Express Gas Plus station in Phoenix gas station in Phoenix, Arizona August 10, 2011. REUTERS/Joshua Lott

Crude inventories rose 3.9 million barrels in the week to March 4, inline with analysts’ expectations, hitting an all-time high of 521.9 million barrels.

Crude stocks at the Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery hub rose by 690,000 barrels, hitting another record high, EIA said.

Gasoline stocks fell 4.5 million barrels, the largest weekly drop in almost two years and more than three times larger than the 1.4 million-barrel drop expected by analysts in a Reuters poll.

Distillate stockpiles, which include diesel and heating oil, fell 1.1 million barrels, much bigger than the 43,000-barrel draw forecast.

“Gasoline is the star of the show today. Ongoing strength in demand has yielded a large draw to gasoline inventories despite a rebound in refinery runs,” said Matt Smith, director of commodity research at New York-headquarter energy data provider ClipperData.

U.S. crude futures extended gains after the data as the big draws in products partially offset the continued build in total crude inventories.

Front-month U.S. futures were up more than 4 percent to an intraday high of $38.04 per barrel shortly after the data before paring some of those gains. At 10:54 a.m. EDT, they were up 2.5 percent at $37.40.

Production continues to be staunch, ushering crude inventories higher despite ongoing strong imports and increased refinery utilization.”

Refinery crude runs rose by 59,000 barrels per day, EIA data showed. Refinery utilization rates rose by 0.8 percentage point to 89.1 percent of capacity.

U.S. crude imports fell by 244,000 bpd.

Reporting By Josephine Mason; additional reporting by Barani Krishnan; Editing by Marguerita Choy