NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. crude stocks rose last week as refineries cut output to the lowest level in nearly two years and production edged higher to a record of 12.6 million barrels per day (bpd), the Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday.
Crude inventories rose by 2.9 million barrels in the last week, compared with analysts’ expectations for an increase of 1.4 million barrels.
Production climbed by 200,000 bpd to a record of 12.6 million bpd, the data showed.
Refinery crude runs fell by 361,000 barrels per day (bpd), EIA data showed, while refinery utilization rates fell by 0.7 percentage point to the lowest level since October 2017, the data showed.
Oil prices were little changed after briefly extending losses after the release of the data.
“Total crude oil production rose which I think is probably the key point in keeping gains at bay here. Despite rig counts being lower, production is being resilient,” said Tony Headrick, energy market analyst at CHS Hedging.
U.S. energy firms reduced the number of oil rigs for a record 10th month in a row through September as producers follow through on plans to cut spending on new drilling this year.
The drop in refining activity has helped contribute to the build in oil inventories despite the drop in net imports, said Matt Smith, director of commodity research at ClipperData.
Net U.S. crude imports fell last week by 601,000 bpd while gross exports jumped 534,000 bpd to 3.4 million bpd, the highest since June 21, when exports hit a record 3.8 million bpd.
“We are in the depths of fall maintenance but both strong exports and weak imports have helped limit the build,” Smith said.
Gasoline stocks fell by 1.2 million barrels, compared with analysts’ expectations in a Reuters poll for a 257,000-barrel drop.
Distillate stockpiles, which include diesel and heating oil, fell by 3.9 million barrels, versus expectations for a 2.1 million barrel drop, the EIA data showed.
Crude stocks at the Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery hub rose by 941,000 barrels, EIA said.
Reporting by Devika Krishna Kumar in New York; Additional reporting by Laura Sanicola, Laila Kearney and Stephanie Kelly; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Grant McCool