(Reuters) - U.S. crude stocks rose last week, but refined product inventories fell more than expected, with gasoline demand rising to a seven-month high, the Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday.
Crude inventories rose by 5 million barrels in the week to March 9, compared with analysts’ expectations for an increase of 2 million barrels.
Production rose as well, with U.S. output hitting 10.38 million barrels a day, a new weekly record; all-time daily output measured on a monthly basis broke a 47-year record in November.
“Commercial crude stocks in the US have been recovering and are at their highest level since December 2017. The trend will be supported by the country’s persistently high oil output, which in turn remains a worry for countries participating in the OPEC-led output-cut agreement,” said Abhishek Kumar, senior energy analyst at Interfax Energy’s Global Gas Analytics in London.
Oil prices were little changed from before the data, after some volatility in the minutes after the release. Crude futures were up by five cents to $60.78 a barrel as of 10:50 a.m. EDT, while Brent rose 9 cents to $64.75 a barrel.
The sharp fall in products inventories comes even as refineries ratcheted up activity in what is typically the season when refiners start to do maintenance. Gasoline stocks fell by 6.3 million barrels, compared with analysts’ expectations in a Reuters poll for a 1.2 million-barrel drop. Gasoline demand hit its highest level since August 2017, the EIA said.
Distillate stockpiles, which include diesel and heating oil, fell by 4.4 million barrels, versus expectations for a 1.5 million-barrel drop, the EIA data showed.
Refinery crude runs rose by 432,000 barrels per day, EIA data showed. Refinery utilization rates rose by 2 percentage points.
Net U.S. crude imports fell last week by 407,000 barrels per day.
Crude stocks at the Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery hub rose by 338,000 barrels, EIA said. That’s the first increase in stocks at the storage hub in 12 weeks, but overall inventory levels remain low at that location.
Reporting By David Gaffen; Editing by Susan Thomas