EIA: US crude stockpiles fall the most in nearly a year

NEW YORK (Reuters) — US crude oil inventories fell for the seventh consecutive week in their largest drawdown in nearly a year while exports and production continued to rise, the Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday.

Crude inventories fell 8.95 MMbbl in the week to Aug. 11, nearly three times analysts' expectations for a decrease of 3.1 MMbbl and the largest draw in since the week to Sept. 2.

At 466.5 MMbbl, crude stockpiles were at their lowest since January 2016. Including emergency reserves, crude stocks were at 1.15 Bbbl, the lowest levels since October 2015, according to EIA data.

Crude stocks at the Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery hub for US crude futures rose 678,000 bbl, EIA said.

The report also had bearish elements, as 2.5 MMbbl of the draw was on the West Coast, somewhat limiting the market impact of the drop, said David Thompson, executive vice-president at Powerhouse, an energy-specialized commodities broker in Washington.

After the data, crude futures extended gains but then turned negative, with West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures fell 22 cents to $47.33 a barrel by 11:25 a.m. EDT (1525 GMT), after rising to $47.99. Brent crude futures were unchanged at $50.80/bbl, after trading as high as $51.40 earlier in the session.

US refinery crude runs fell by 9,000 bpd, as utilization rates slipped by 0.2 percentage point from 12-year highs to 96.1% of total capacity, EIA data showed.

Gasoline stocks were unchanged, compared with analysts' expectations in a Reuters poll for a 1.1-MMbbl drop.

Distillate stockpiles, which include diesel and heating oil, rose 702,000 bbl, versus expectations for a drop of 572,000 bbl, the EIA data showed.

US crude imports rose last week by 194,000 bpd.

US crude production rose to 9.5 MMbpd from 9.4 MMbpd in the previous week. Crude oil exports also rose, jumping to 877,000 bpd from 707,000 bpd.

US crude production has been closely watched by OPEC and other producers that have tried to stem a global supply glut.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries together with non-OPEC producers including Russia have pledged to restrict output by 1.8 MMbpd between January this year and March 2018.

US output has filled part of that gap.

"The rise in crude production continues to happen," said Gene McGillian, director of market research at Tradition Energy. While nearly 70 MMbbl of inventory decreases have been reported this summer, the market is waiting for a signal after the Labor Day holiday, when demand usually tapers, he said.

"If we see these draws past Labor Day, it will drive the market, possibly past $50."

Jessica Resnick-Ault in New York; Editing by Marguerita Choy

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