January 29, 2020 / 3:54 PM / a month ago

U.S. crude stockpiles rise more than expected as refiners cut runs-EIA

(Reuters) - U.S. crude oil stockpiles rose far more than anticipated last week as refiners cut runs on the back of weakened demand for fuel, with gasoline inventories building to a record high, the Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: The Philadelphia Energy Solutions plant refinery is seen in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S., August 21, 2019. REUTERS/Mark Makela/File Photo

Crude inventories rose 3.5 million barrels in the week to Jan. 24 to 431.7 million barrels, compared with analysts’ expectations in a Reuters poll for a 482,000-barrel rise.

That came as refiners cut back runs sharply, with utilization rates dropping 3.3% last week to 87.2% of total capacity. Refinery crude runs fell by 933,000 barrels per day, EIA said.

Overall demand in the last four weeks has sagged, with gasoline product supply - a measure of demand - down by 4.4% from the year-ago period, and distillate fuel demand down 8.3%, EIA said.

Oil prices were little changed following the news, but remained weak as a consequence of ongoing concern about the effects of the coronavirus on travel, and by extension, fuel demand. [O/R]

U.S. crude futures dropped 16 cents, or 0.3%, to $53.33 a barrel as of 10:50 a.m. ET (1550 GMT), while Brent was up 27 cents to $59.78 a barrel.

“A big drop in refining runs was a bit disappointing, leading to a bigger than expected build in crude,” said Phil Flynn, an analyst at Price Futures Group. “Because the market was oversold anyway, there’s a chance to recover, because the products (inventories) were pretty much in line with expectations.”

U.S. gasoline stocks rose for a 12th straight week, growing by 1.2 million barrels to an all-time high at 261.2 million barrels, the EIA said. Analysts had expected a 1.3 million-barrel rise.​

Distillate stockpiles, which include diesel and heating oil, fell 1.3 million barrels in the week to 144.7 million barrels, versus expectations for a 1.1 million-barrel drop, the EIA data showed.

U.S. Gulf Coast distillate inventories last week rose by about 2 million barrels to 48.9 million barrels, the highest since September 2017.

Crude stocks at the Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery hub rose by 758,000 barrels in the last week, the EIA said.

Net U.S. crude imports rose last week by 133,000 bpd, the EIA said. Overall, the U.S. was a net exporter of petroleum in the most recent week, with daily net exports of products coming to 4 million bpd, while net imports of crude averaged 3.2 million bpd.

Reporting By New York Energy Desk; Editing by Marguerita Choy

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