September 19, 2018 / 2:36 PM / a month ago

U.S. crude stockpiles fall for a fifth week to 2015 lows: EIA

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. crude oil stockpiles fell for a fifth straight week to 3-1/2-year lows, while gasoline inventories also drew down sharply last week on unseasonally strong demand, the Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: Crude oil storage tanks are seen from above at the Cushing oil hub, in Cushing, Oklahoma, March 24, 2016. REUTERS/Nick Oxford/File Photo

Crude inventories fell 2.1 million barrels in the week to Sept. 14 to 394.1 million barrels, the lowest level since February 2015, EIA data showed. Analysts had forecast a decrease of 2.7 million barrels.

Crude stocks at the Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery hub for U.S. crude futures fell 1.25 million barrels, EIA said.

Net U.S. crude imports fell last week by 106,000 barrels per day, as exports jumped over 500,000 bpd to 2.4 million bpd.

Weekly crude production inched back to 11 million bpd, the record high it has been hovering around this summer.

Gasoline stocks fell 1.7 million barrels, compared with analysts’ expectations in a Reuters poll for a 104,000-barrel drop.

“It was a squarely bullish report,” said John Kilduff, a partner at Again Capital Management in New York. “The summer-like demand from drivers is proving unrelenting.”

Gasoline consumption usually picks up in the summer and wanes in autumn, but demand remained strong in the latest week, estimated at 9.53 million bpd.

U.S. crude futures extended gains after the report, rising 86 cents to $70.72 a barrel by 10:53 a.m. EDT [14:53 GMT]. Brent crude was up 3 cents at $79.06 a barrel.

Refinery activity started to slow down from record highs reached a month ago with crude runs down 442,000 bpd and utilization rates off 2.2 percentage points to 95.4 percent of nationwide capacity, EIA data showed.

Distillate stockpiles, which include diesel and heating oil, rose 839,000 barrels, versus expectations for a 651,000-barrel increase, the EIA data showed.

Editing by Marguerita Choy

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