Crude oil inventories fell by 3.4 million barrels in the November 24 week to 453.7 million, 7.1 percent below the level a year ago. But product inventories increased, with gasoline up 3.6 million barrels to 214.1 million, 5.3 percent below last year's level, and distillates up 2.7 million barrels to 127.8 million, a year-on-year decline of 17.1 percent. The decline in crude oil reported by the EIA contrasts with a 1.8 million barrel increase reported yesterday by the American Petroleum Institute (API), a private industry group. WTI prices rose by about 15 cents to around $57.90 per barrel immediately following the release of the EIA data.
Refineries ramped up operations by another 1.3 percentage points during the week to 92.6 percent of their operable capacity. Production nevertheless declined, averaging about 10.2 million barrels per day for gasoline and 5.3 million barrels per day for distillates.
Crude oil imports fell by 544,000 barrels per day during the week to an average of 7.3 million barrels per day. The 4-week average for crude oil imports fell to 7.6 million barrels per day, 1.7 percent less than imports in the same period last year.
The demand side remained steady, averaging 20.0 million barrels per day over the last four weeks, up 0.9 percent from last year. The daily average for gasoline supplied during the period decreased to 9.2 million barrels per day, 0.8 percent above the level a year ago, while distillates supplied increased to an average of 4.1 million barrels per day, up 3.2 percent from the same 4-week period last year.
The week's report continues to show a U.S. oil market that has emerged from oversupply and is gradually becoming tighter on the back of slightly stronger demand and smaller imports, though current prices at 2-year highs are likely to stimulate new shale oil exploration and development activities, increasing domestic production and supply down the road.