U.S. crude oil stockpiles last week fell more sharply than expected as refining output rose and exports surged, the Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday.
Crude inventories (USOILC=ECI) fell by 8 million barrels in the week to April 30 to 485.1 million barrels, compared with analysts' expectations in a Reuters poll for a 2.3 million-barrel drop.
Net U.S. crude imports (USOICI=ECI) fell by 2.8 million barrels per day, the EIA said. That move was largely due to a surge in exports to 4.1 million bpd, their highest since March 2020, from 2.5 million bpd the previous week.
Refiners continued to boost production as the summer driving season approaches in the United States. Refinery crude runs (USOICR=ECI) rose by 225,000 bpd, while utilization rates (USOIRU=ECI) rose by 1.1 percentage points to 86.5% of overall capacity, their highest since March 2020.
In the refining and export hub on the Gulf Coast, crude stockpiles last week posted their largest draw since July and refinery utilization rose to 90.2% of capacity, its highest since March 2020.
"As refineries gear up for a monumental summer driving season, refining activity should only increase from hereon out, while Asian demand is set to bolster U.S. oil exports going forward," said Matt Smith, director of commodity research at ClipperData.
Crude stocks at the Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery hub for U.S. crude futures (USOICC=ECI) rose by 254,000 barrels in the last week, EIA said.
Futures were modestly lower on the news, though still up on the day. U.S. crude gained 57 cents to $66.27 a barrel, while Brent rose 67 cents to $69.55 a barrel.
Despite the hike in refining, distillate stockpiles (USOILD=ECI), which include diesel and heating oil, fell by 2.9 million barrels, versus expectations for a 1.1 million-barrel drop, the EIA data showed.
U.S. gasoline stocks (USOILG=ECI) rose by 737,000 barrels in the week, the EIA said, instead of the 652,000-barrel draw forecast.
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