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U.S. crude stockpiles fall as refiners ramp up output: EIA

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(Reuters) – U.S. crude oil stockpiles dropped more than expected as refiners increased activity heading into the summer driving season, the Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday.

Crude inventories fell by 5.9 million barrels in the week to April 9 to 492.4 million barrels, compared with analysts’ expectations in a Reuters poll for a 2.9 million-barrel drop.

Refinery utilization rates rose by 1 percentage point to 85% of overall capacity. That is the highest since March of last year, just before the coronavirus pandemic caused refiners to severely restrict processing activities as demand dove.

“A big jump in refinery runs suggests strong refining demand,” said Phil Flynn, senior analyst at Price Futures Group in Chicago. “It really looks like we’re getting a return to some more solid demand numbers and that should keep us going.”

Oil prices rallied on the report. U.S. crude futures were up $2.50 a barrel, or 4.1%, at $62.68 a barrel, while Brent rose 4% to $66.17 a barrel as of 10:45 a.m. EDT (1445 GMT).

U.S. gasoline stocks rose 309,000 barrels in the week to 234.9 million barrels, less than analysts’ expectations for a 786,000-barrel rise.

Distillate stockpiles, which include diesel and heating oil, fell by 2.1 million barrels versus forecasts for a 971,000-barrel rise, the EIA data showed.

Net U.S. crude imports rose last week by 443,000 barrels per day.

Crude stocks at the Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery hub rose by 346,000 barrels in the last week, EIA said.

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