(Reuters) - U.S. crude oil stockpiles rose last week while gasoline and distillate inventories fell last week, in a report on Tuesday that predates much of the oil industry’s response to the worsening coronavirus outbreak and expected surge in supply from Saudi Arabia.
Crude inventories rose by 2 million barrels in the week ended March 13 to 453.7 million barrels, the highest since July 2019, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said. Analysts in a Reuters poll forecast a 3.3 million-barrel rise.
Gasoline and diesel stocks fell sharply, as refineries kept capacity use steady.
However, numerous governments worldwide in the last week have stepped up efforts to slow the spread of the virus, urging residents to restrict social gatherings, while businesses have shuttered.
Gasoline demand is plummeting, according to independent analysts, but the weekly data from the U.S. Energy Department does not reflect the dramatic reset seen in oil markets.
“Going forward will be the interesting story - will we see these large builds on crude and products? Going forward we could see some sort of change to the status quo here,” said Ryan Kaup, a commodities broker at CHS Hedging.
Economies around the world are swiftly contracting, and Goldman Sachs researchers said on Tuesday that global demand by March may have fallen by roughly 8 million to 9 million barrels per day. Gasoline prices have fallen further than diesel prices, in the expectation that fewer drivers will be on the roads even if truck deliveries continue.
At that time, oil prices had been hit hard following the eruption of a price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia after the two nations failed to come to an agreement to curb supply with the coronavirus outbreak sapping demand.
U.S. crude prices were down 13% to $23.34 a barrel as of 11:02 a.m. ET (1502 GMT), lowest since March 2002. Brent crude lost 8.4% to $26.31 a barrel.
Refinery crude runs rose by 118,000 bpd last week, the EIA said. Refinery utilization rates were unchanged on the week.
U.S. gasoline stocks fell by 6.2 million barrels in the week to 240.82 million barrels, the EIA said, compared with analysts’ expectations in a Reuters poll for a 2.9 million-barrel drop.
Distillate stockpiles, which include diesel and heating oil, fell by 2.9 million barrels in the week to 125.12 million barrels, versus expectations for a 2 million-barrel drop, the EIA data showed.
Crude stocks at the Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery hub rose by 563,000 barrels in the last week, EIA said.
Net U.S. crude imports fell last week by 841,000 bpd in the last week, the EIA said.
The United States was a net exporter of crude and refined products for five weeks in a row as of last week, the longest streak on record.
Reporting By New York Energy Desk; Editing by Marguerita Choy