News wire — U.S. crude and fuel inventories fell last week, the Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday, though the commercial crude inventory decline was tempered by a large release from the nation’s emergency reserves.
Crude inventories fell by 3.3 million barrels in the week to Aug. 19 to 421.7 million barrels, compared with analysts’ expectations in a Reuters poll for a 933,000-barrel drop.
The inventory decline would have been larger if not for another big release of barrels from U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve. The United States released more than 8 million barrels from the SPR last week, offsetting a drop in production and a modest uptick in refining activity.
Crude production slipped 100,000 barrels per day to 12 million bpd, data showed.
Refinery runs fell by 168,000 bpd in the week, the EIA said, boosting refinery utilization rates by 0.3 percentage point to 93.8%, still at high levels even as driving season is nearing its end.
U.S. gasoline stocks fell by 27,000 barrels in the week to 215.6 million barrels, compared with expectations for a 1.5 million-barrel drop.
After rebounding last week, overall U.S. gasoline demand sunk in the most recent period, leaving the four-week average of daily gasoline product supplied 7% below the year-earlier period. Analysts are concerned by weak demand for fuels, saying it augurs for a notable slowdown in economic activity.
“Demand remains a question mark. It has been holding prices relatively down over the past several weeks,” said John Kilduff, partner at Again Capital in New York.
Distillate stockpiles, which include diesel and heating oil, fell by 661,000 barrels in the week to 111.6 million barrels.
Net U.S. crude imports rose last week by 862,000 bpd, EIA said. Exports fell to 4.2 million bpd, after hitting a record 5 million bpd the week previous.
Oil prices were modestly higher on the news. U.S. crude futures rose 0.8% to $94.53 a barrel as of 10:57 a.m. EST (1457 GMT), while Brent gained 0.6% to $100.84 a barrel.
Reporting By David Gaffen; additional reporting by Laila Kearney; Editing by Marguerita Choy – Reuters
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