U.S. crude stockpiles fell less than expected last week, while gasoline inventories grew as demand remained weak, the Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday, keeping concerns about global supply on a simmer.
Crude inventories USOILC=ECI fell by 930,000 barrels in the week to April 28, much less than analysts' expectations for a decrease of 2.3 million barrels. Although crude stocks have steadily declined for the last four weeks, at 527.8 million barrels they still 3 percent higher from this time a year ago.
"It has been another fairly uninspiring report for the bulls," said Matt Smith, director of commodity research at ClipperData.
The oil markets turned negative immediately after the report. U.S. crude futures CLc1 was down 16 cents at $47.50 a barrel by 10:50 a.m. EDT, while Brent LCOc1 fell 10 cents to $50.36 a barrel.
Analysts said the declines came in part after Tuesday's data from industry group the American Petroleum Institute, which showed bigger drawdowns.
Stocks at the Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery hub for U.S. crude futures USOICC=ECI fell 728,000 barrels, EIA said.
U.S. crude production rose modestly again, and currently sits at 9.29 million barrels a day, highest since August 2015, while imports USOICI=ECI fell by 34,000 bpd.
Gasoline stocks USOILG=ECI rose by 191,000 barrels, compared with expectations in a Reuters poll for a 1.3 million-barrel gain.
Stocks of the motor fuel, at 241.2 million barrels, were still 10 percent higher than the seasonal average over the past decade, as gasoline demand for the past four weeks was down by 2.7 percent from the year-ago period.
"This is continuing a trend since the beginning of the year in which sales have been lower and that is casting a shadow on the market and pressuring crude oil prices," said Andrew Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates in Houston.
Refinery crude runs USOICR=ECI inched down from record highs, slipping 108,000 barrels per day, to 17.2 million bpd, as utilization rates USOIRU=ECI fell 0.8 percentage points to 93.3 percent of capacity, EIA data showed.
Distillate stockpiles USOILD=ECI, which include diesel and heating oil, fell by 562,000 barrels, versus expectations for a 723,000 barrel-increase, the EIA data showed.
(Additional reporting by Scott DiSavino and Ethan Lou; Editing by Marguerita Choy)