HOUSTON, Jan 11 (Reuters) - U.S. crude stocks built unexpectedly last week, the Energy Information Administration said, as refiners were slow to restore production after a cold freeze that shut operations.
Crude inventories (USOILC=ECI) rose by 19 million barrels in the week ended Jan. 6 to 439.6 million barrels. Analysts polled by Reuters had expected a 2.2 million-barrel drop.
It was the largest weekly build since February 2021, and the third-largest increase on record.
"It's still the backwash of the freeze-in... the crude oil number implies that the refineries are not up and running," said Bob Yawger, director of energy futures at Mizuho in New York.
U.S. crude prices briefly dipped after the data, but recovered as traders largely dismissed the crude stock rise as a one time event related to cold weather.
Crude stocks at the Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery hub (USOICC=ECI) rose by 2.5 million barrels in the last week, EIA said.
Net U.S. crude imports (USOICI=ECI) rose by 2.71 million barrels per day, bringing total net crude imports to 4.2 million bpd, the highest since July.
U.S. gasoline stocks (USOILG=ECI) rose by 4.1 million barrels in the week to 226.8 million barrels, the EIA said, compared with analysts' expectations in a Reuters poll for a 1.2 million-barrel rise.
Distillate stockpiles (USOILD=ECI), which include diesel and heating oil, fell by 1.1 million barrels in the week to 117.7 million barrels, versus expectations for a 0.5 million-barrel drop, the EIA data showed.
"Despite lower refining activity, gasoline inventories still increased strongly amid very weak implied demand, while distillates showed a modest draw amid muted implied demand also," said Kpler oil analyst Matt Smith.
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