(Reuters) -U.S. crude oil stockpiles last week surged the most since April, jumping more than 15 million barrels, as imports rose and exports plunged, the Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday.
The unexpected supply build and record rise in net imports stunned the oil market, which has been weighed down by low demand due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“It defies the math that is in the market, for sure,” said Bob Yawger, director of Energy Futures at Mizuho in New York. “Do U.S. refiners, at a time when they’re closing refineries, need to increase imports by a million barrels a day? That’s ridiculous.”
Crude inventories rose by 15.2 million barrels in the week to Dec. 4 to 503.2 million barrels, the EIA said, compared with analysts’ expectations in a Reuters poll for a 1.4 million-barrel drop.
Net crude imports rose by a record high of 2.7 million barrels per day, the EIA said. That boosted U.S. Gulf Coast stocks by 11.8 million barrels, the most in one week ever, according to EIA data.
U.S. crude exports plunged by 1.6 million bpd to just 1.8 million bpd, the lowest since 2018, while imports rose 1.08 million bpd.
Crude markets gave up early gains on the news, with U.S. crude and global benchmark Brent changing course to trade lower. U.S. crude settled 8 cents lower at $45.52 a barrel, after touching a session low of $44.95 a barrel.
Gasoline and distillate stocks were also higher, causing U.S. gasoline futures to pare gains as heating oil futures turned negative.
Gasoline stockpiles rose by 4.2 million barrels in the week to 237.9 million barrels, the EIA said, compared with expectations for a 2.3 million-barrel rise.
Distillate stockpiles, which include diesel and heating oil, rose by 5.2 million barrels in the week to 151.1 million barrels, versus expectations for a 1.4 million-barrel rise, the EIA data showed.
Crude stocks at the Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery hub fell by 1.4 million barrels in the last week, EIA said.
Refinery crude runs rose by 424,000 bpd, as refinery utilization rates rose by 1.7 percentage points, the EIA said.