U.S. crude, distillate stocks rise in most recent week

U.S. crude stocks and distillate inventories rose more than expected in the most recent week, while fuel demand remained below last year’s levels, the Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday.

Crude inventories (USOILC=ECI) rose by 2.4 million barrels in the week to Sept. 9 to 429.6 million barrels, compared with analysts’ expectations in a Reuters poll for an 833,000-barrel rise. The gains were boosted by an 8.4-million-barrel release from the U.S. strategic reserves into commercial stocks; those releases are set to end in October, and supply is expected to tighten at that time.

Refinery crude runs by 0.6 percentage point to 91.5%.

The increase helped distillate stockpiles (USOILD=ECI), which include diesel and heating oil, to build by 4.2 million barrels to 116 million barrels.

Distillate stocks have been at lower-than-usual levels due in part to heavy export demand from Europe, and profit margins are high as refiners try to meet consumption headed into winter heating oil use.

U.S. product exports have averaged 6.4 million barrels per day (bpd) over the last four weeks, or 26% more than the year-ago period, while crude exports are 40% higher for the same period.

“It’s just an extraordinary amount of exports of products and crude oil combined,” said John Kilduff, partner at Again Capital in New York.

Product supplied by refiners, a proxy for demand, was at 19.7 million bpd over the last four weeks, off by 7% from the same time period a year ago. Demand has sagged as the economy has started to slow and in response to persistently high energy costs.

U.S. gasoline stocks (USOILG=ECI) fell by 1.8 million barrels in the week, compared with expectations for an 858,000-barrel drop.​

Net U.S. crude imports (USOICI=ECI) fell by 1.07 million barrels per day, EIA said.

Oil prices were higher after the report. U.S. crude rose $1.77 a barrel to $89.08, up 2%, while Brent gained $1.60 to $94.77 a barrel, up 1.7%, as of 10:52 a.m. EST (1552 GMT).