By Dan Molinski
U.S. inventories of crude oil unexpectedly increased as refiners slowed down activity, according to weekly data released Wednesday by the Energy Information Administration.
Benchmark U.S. oil prices that were sharply higher before the report came out, added to those gains afterward despite the report being somewhat bearish. The Nymex front-month crude contract for September delivery was recently up 3.8% at $69.73 a barrel.
Crude-oil stockpiles rose by 2.1 million barrels to 439.7 million barrels, and are now about 7% below the five-year average, the EIA said. Analysts surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had predicted crude stockpiles would fall by 3.7 million barrels from the prior week.
Oil stored at Cushing, the delivery point for U.S. stocks, fell by 1.3 million barrels from the previous week, to 36.7 million barrels, the EIA said in its weekly report.
U.S. crude-oil production remained flat from the previous week at 11.4 million barrels a day, according to the EIA.
Gasoline stockpiles slipped by 121,000 barrels to 236.4 million barrels, compared with analysts' expectations for inventories to decrease by 1.1 million barrels from the previous week.
Distillate stocks, which include heating oil and diesel fuel, fell by 1.3 million barrels to 141 million barrels and remain about 4% below the five-year average, the EIA said. Earlier in the week, analysts had forecast distillate supplies would rise by 700,000 barrels from the previous week.
The refining capacity utilization rate fell by 0.4 percentage point from the previous week to 91.4%, compared with analysts' forecasts for a 0.3 percentage-point increase from the previous week.
U.S. oil inventories for the week ended July 16:
Crude Gasoline Distillates Refinery Use
EIA data: +2.1 -0.1 -1.3 -0.4
Forecast: -3.7 -1.1 +0.7 +0.3
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