[WASHINGTON] US crude stocks dipped last week as refineries slightly pared record-high output, while gasoline stocks decreased and distillate inventories rose, data from the Energy Information Administration showed on Wednesday.
Crude inventories fell by 1.7 million barrels in the last week, compared with analysts' expectations for an decrease of 1.8 million barrels. Oil prices slightly pared earlier gains following the data, with US crude hovering just above $43 a barrel, near a new six-year low.
Crude stocks at the Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery hub fell by 51,000 barrels to 57.1 million barrels, EIA said. Tanks in Cushing can store as much as 71.4 million barrels, according to EIA estimates.
Oil traders are bracing for a rapid build-up in inventories in the coming weeks, likely testing Cushing's storage capacity limits, as refiners shut for spring maintenance; the rise may be swifter than expected due to the unexpected prolonged closure of the biggest crude unit at BP's Whiting refinery this week.
Refinery crude runs fell by 46,000 barrels per day to 17.03 million bpd after reaching the highest run rates on record in previous weeks, EIA data showed. Refinery utilization rates remained unchanged.
Gasoline stocks fell by 1.3 million barrels, compared with analysts' expectations in a Reuters poll for a 647,000 barrels drop.
Distillate stockpiles, which include diesel and heating oil, rose by 3.0 million barrels, versus expectations for a 1.3 million barrels increase, the EIA data showed.
US crude imports rose last week by 393,000 barrels per day.