U.S. crude stockpiles rise, fuel draws down

U.S. crude oil stocks rose last week but gasoline and distillate stocks fell even as refining activity increased on strong overall fuel demand, the Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday.

Crude inventories rose by 1 MM bbl in the week to Nov. 19, compared with analysts' expectations for a decrease of 481,000 bbl.

Fuel stocks have continued to decline as product demand remains strong. Gasoline stocks fell by 603,000 bbl, compared with analysts' expectations in a Reuters poll for a 461,000-bbl drop. Stocks of gasoline are at their lowest since November 2017.

"Demand for gasoline and diesel fuel continues to be good in this holiday season and I expect that with drivers taking to the roads over the holiday, we're going to see gasoline inventories decline next week," said Andrew Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates in Houston.

Overall, gasoline product supplied, a measure of U.S. demand, has averaged 9.3 MMbpd over the last four weeks, or in line with pre-pandemic levels.

"The gasoline demand is phenomenal - it's been unrelenting since the summer, and we are not seeing any decline now," said John Kilduff, partner at Again Capital Markets in New York.

Distillate stockpiles, which include diesel and heating oil, fell by 2 MM bbl, versus expectations for a 1 MM-bbl drop, the EIA data showed. Overall distillate stocks are now at their lowest since November 2018.

U.S. crude futures rose 33 cents to $78.82 a bbl. Brent crude was up 35 cents, or 0.4%, at $82.66 a bbl, having jumped by 3.3% on Tuesday.

Refinery crude runs rose by 243,000 bpd, EIA data showed. Refinery utilization rates rose by 0.7% points.

Crude stocks at the Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery hub rose by 787,000 bbl, EIA said, the second straight increase at the key storage hub.

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