By Dan Molinski
U.S. inventories of crude oil fell more than expected last week, but gasoline stockpiles notched another large increase, according to weekly data released Wednesday by the Energy Information Administration.
Benchmark U.S. oil prices erased moderate declines to turn slightly higher after the report, which was bullish for crude but bearish for processed fuels. The Nymex front-month crude contract for February delivery was recently up 0.3% at $53.38 a barrel.
Crude-oil stockpiles fell by 3.2 million barrels, to 482.2 million barrels, and are now about 8% above the five-year average, the EIA said. Analysts surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had predicted crude stockpiles would fall 1.9 million barrels from the prior week.
Oil stored at Cushing, the delivery point for U.S. stocks, fell by 2 million barrels from the previous week, to 57.2 million barrels, the EIA said in its weekly report.
U.S. crude-oil production was unchanged on the week, at 11 million barrels a day, according to the EIA.
Gasoline stockpiles rose by 4.4 million barrels, to 245.5 million barrels, compared with analysts' expectations for inventories to rise by just 2.1 million barrels from the previous week.
Distillate stocks, which include heating oil and diesel fuel, climbed by 4.8 million barrels, to 163.2 million barrels, and are now about 9% above the five-year average, the EIA said. Earlier in the week, analysts had forecast distillate supplies would rise by 1.9 million barrels from the previous week.
The refining capacity utilization rate surprisingly jumped by 1.3 percentage points from the previous week, to 82%. This compares with forecasts for the rate to be unchanged from the previous week.
U.S. oil inventories for the week ended Jan. 8:
Crude Gasoline Distillates Use
EIA data: -3.2 +4.4 +4.8 +1.3
Forecast: -1.9 +2.1 +1.9 unch
Note: Numbers in millions of barrels, with the exception of refinery use, which is in percentage points.
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(END) Dow Jones Newswires