(Reuters) - U.S. crude stocks rose much more than analysts expected last week, the first gain in six weeks as refineries cut output in the less-active maintenance season, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said on Thursday.
Crude inventories swelled by 4.9 million barrels in the week to Oct. 7, trouncing the build of 650,000 barrels that analysts had forecast. It followed five consecutive weeks of drawdowns attributed to refiners running down stocks and as imports have declined from late August.
Refinery crude runs fell by 480,000 barrels per day, EIA data showed. Refinery utilization rates fell by 2.8 percentage points.
“This report shows the effects of refinery maintenance hitting its peak for this autumn,” said David Thompson, executive vice-president at energy-specialized commodities broker Powerhouse in Washington.
Oil prices were slightly higher, after a brief dip following the news. U.S. crude gained 0.5 percent to $50.43 a barrel while Brent crude edged up 0.4 percent to $52.04.
Crude stocks at the Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery hub fell by 1.3 million barrels, EIA said.
Gasoline stocks fell by 1.9 million barrels, compared with analysts’ expectations in a Reuters poll for a 1.5 million barrel-drop.
Distillate stockpiles, which include diesel and heating oil, fell by 3.7 million barrels, versus expectations for a 1.6 million-barrel drop, the EIA data showed.
“The decline in distillate fuels, of late, are starting to add up, and further drawdowns are likely as a result of the depressed refinery run rate,” said John Kilduff, partner at New York energy hedge fund Again Capital.
“We remain a long way from supplies getting tight, but it is a trend worth monitoring.”
U.S. crude imports rose last week by 110,000 barrels per day.
Overall crude stocks excluding the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve stand at 474 million barrels, EIA said. For the first time, the overall inventories exclude about 30 million barrels in U.S. lease stocks, an adjustment the EIA made. Those barrels are not available for commercial use, and operators often do not count them as production until the oil is transferred off the lease.
Reporting By David Gaffen; Editing by David Gregorio