New York — U.S. crude oil stockpiles fell less than expected last week, while gasoline stocks posted a hefty surprise build ahead of the Memorial Day long weekend as refiners boosted their rates to the highest in five months, the Energy Information Administration said on Thursday.
Crude inventories fell 282,000 barrels in the week to May 24, compared with analysts’ expectations for an decrease of 857,000 barrels and the industry group the American Petroleum Institute report of a 5.3 million-barrel draw.
Stocks edged down from the previous levels which were the highest since July 2017. However, at 476.5 million barrels, they were about 5% above the five year average for this time of year.
Net U.S. crude imports fell last week by 476,000 barrels per day (bpd) and crude production rose 100,000 bpd, back to its record high at 12.3 million bpd.
Crude stocks at the Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery hub fell by 16,000 barrels, EIA said.
Crude prices extended losses after the data was released. U.S. crude dropped $1 a barrel to $57.81 by 11:29 a.m. EDT (1529 GMT), while Brent crude was down $1.91 a barrel at $67.56.
Refinery crude runs rose by 189,000 bpd and utilization rates jumped 1.3 percentage points to 91.2 percent of total capacity, their highest since January, EIA data showed.
“This increase in refinery utilization has resulted in another significant increase in gasoline inventories, which is pressuring gasoline prices,” said Andrew Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates in Houston.
Gasoline stocks rose by 2.2 million barrels, compared with analysts’ expectations in a Reuters poll for a 528,000-barrel drop, and were about 1% above the five year average for this time of year, the EIA said.
U.S. Gulf Coast gasoline inventories climbed to the highest levels for May on record, according to the data.
The Memorial Day holiday weekend is considered the start of the summer driving season and the peak demand season for gasoline.
Distillate stockpiles, which include diesel and heating oil, fell by 1.6 million barrels, versus expectations for a 564,000-barrel increase, the EIA data showed.