U.S. Crude Oil Inventories Surge as Refineries Hit the Brakes

By Dan Molinski

U.S. crude-oil inventories rose much more than expected last week as refinery activity declined sharply, according to data released Thursday by the Energy Information Administration.

Benchmark U.S. oil prices that were higher before the somewhat bearish report came out reduced those gains afterward. The Nymex front-month crude contract for November delivery was recently up 0.5% at $80.85 a barrel.

Crude-oil stockpiles climbed by 6.1 million barrels to 427 million barrels, and are now about 6% below the five-year average, the EIA said. Analysts surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had predicted crude stockpiles would rise by just 900,000 barrels from the prior week.

Oil stored at Cushing, the delivery point for U.S. stocks, fell by 2 million barrels from the previous week, to 33.6 million barrels, the EIA said in its weekly report.

U.S. crude-oil production rose by 100,000 barrels a day last week to 11.4 million barrels a day, according to EIA.

Gasoline stockpiles fell by 2 million barrels to 223.1 million barrels, compared with analysts' expectations for inventories to increase by 600,000 barrels from the previous week.

Distillate stocks, which include heating oil and diesel fuel, were virtually unchanged, falling by a tiny 24,000 barrels to 129.3 million barrels, and are now about 9% below the five-year average, the EIA said. Analysts were forecasting a 1.1-million-barrel decline from the previous week.

The refining capacity utilization rate unexpectedly dropped by 2.9 percentage points from the previous week to 86.7%, compared with analysts' forecasts for no change on the week.

U.S. oil inventories for the week ended Oct. 8:

Crude Gasoline Distillates Refinery Use EIA data: +6.1 -2.0 unch -2.9 Forecast: +0.9 +0.6 -1.1 unch

Note: Numbers in millions of barrels, with the exception of refinery use, which is in percentage points.

Write to Dan Molinski at [email protected]