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By David Gaffen
March 8 U.S. crude oil inventories surged last
week to another record high, while gasoline stocks went the
other direction, posting their largest one-week drop in nearly
six years, the Energy Information Administration said on
Crude inventories rose 8.2 million barrels in
the week to March 3, compared with analysts' expectations for a
2 million-barrel build. Most of that - 4.6 million barrels -
came from an unexpectedly large surge in stocks on the west
The ninth weekly crude build boosted total stockpiles,
excluding the nation's strategic petroleum reserves, to a fresh
record of 528.4 million barrels.
Crude stocks at the Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery hub for U.S.
crude futures also rose 867,000 barrels, the EIA
On the other side of the refining equation, gasoline
posted its biggest weekly inventory drawdown since
April 2011, with a 6.6 million-barrel drop, owing to strong
nationwide demand and reduced refining output on the U.S. East
Analysts in a Reuters poll had forecast a 1.4 million-barrel
drop in gasoline stocks.
"Crude stocks were bolstered by rebounding imports, while
both gasoline and distillates draws were exacerbated by higher
implied demand," said Matt Smith, director of commodity research
U.S. crude imports rose last week by 385,000
barrels per day.
U.S. gasoline futures rose sharply on the news,
hitting a session high of $1.7072 a gallon before backtracking
to $1.6899, a 0.6 percent gain on the day, by 11:14 a.m.
U.S crude futures extended losses after the
bigger-than-expected build, trading 92 cents lower at $52.22 a
The divergent prices for feedstock and product boosted the
gasoline crack spread RBc1-CLc1, an indicator of refining
margins, to a one-week high at $18.91 a barrel.
Michael Korn, a broker at Sweet Futures in Princeton, New
Jersey, said if crude inventories continue to rise, it could
benefit crack spreads if gasoline stocks fall as demand rises.
That would help refiners, who were hurt by weak margins last
year due to oversupply, as the summer driving season approaches.
Refinery crude runs slipped by 172,000 bpd as
utilization rates edged down 0.1 percentage point
to 85.9 percent of total capacity, EIA data showed.
Distillate stockpiles, which include diesel and
heating oil, fell by 2.7 million barrels, three times more than
(Reporting By David Gaffen; additional reporting by Scott
DiSavino and Ethan Lou; Editing by Marguerita Choy)