NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. crude oil inventories rose last week to the highest since November 2017 as refiners cut runs to the lowest since October 2017, the Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday.
The increase came despite falling net imports, which dropped to the lowest on record, as domestic crude production remained at peak levels for the fifth straight week.
Crude inventories built for a fourth week in a row, rising 3.6 million barrels to 450.8 million barrels in the week to Feb. 8. Analysts polled by Reuters forecast an increase of 2.7 million barrels.
Crude stocks at the Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery hub for U.S. crude futures fell by just over 1 million barrels, EIA said.
Oil futures pared gains after the data was released, but remained higher on the day. U.S. crude was up 97 cents a barrel at $54.07 by 11:18 a.m. EST (1618 GMT) and Brent crude was up $1.01 at $63.42 a barrel.
“This was a unique report,” said John Kilduff, a partner at Again Capital Management. “The rise in crude oil inventories came despite a plunge in crude oil imports,” he said.
At the same time, product inventories increased due to falling demand, even though refinery runs were down, he said.
Net U.S. crude imports fell last week by 430,000 barrels per day to 3.8 million bpd, the lowest on record, based on EIA data going back to 2001.
Crude production, however, has held at peak levels at 11.9 million bpd since early January.
Refinery crude runs fell 865,000 bpd to 15.8 million bpd as utilization rates slumped 4.8 percentage points to 85.9 percent of total capacity, the lowest levels since October, 2017, EIA data showed.
Gasoline stocks rose by 408,000 barrels, compared with analysts’ expectations for a 826,000-barrel gain.
Distillate stockpiles, which include diesel and heating oil, rose unexpectedly by 1.2 million barrels, versus expectations for a 1.1 million-barrel drop, the EIA data showed.
Reporting by Jessica Resnick-Ault; Editing by Marguerita Choy