US crude oil stockpiles rose unexpectedly for a second week in row as refineries cut output last week, while fuel inventories posted surprise drawdowns with gasoline demand hitting a record high, the Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday.
Crude inventories rose by 1.6 million barrels in the week to August 9, compared with analysts' expectations in a Reuters poll for a decrease of 2.8 million barrels. At 440.5 million barrels, inventories were about 3% above the five-year average for this time of year, the EIA said in its weekly report.
Crude stocks at the Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery hub for US crude futures fell 2.5 million barrels, the EIA said. Stocks in Cushing have declined steadily since July to their lowest in four months due to heavy activity from Midwest refiners, who tend to pull barrels from the Cushing hub.
Midwest crude stocks fell 3.3 million barrels to 132.6 million barrels, their lowest since late January.
Refinery crude runs fell by 475,000 barrels per day, EIA data showed. Refinery utilization rates fell by 1.6 percentage points to 94.8% of overall capacity.
"We might be starting to see the signs of seasonal maintenance creep in and extended maintenance coming into play and so that's one of the headwinds that oil will have to deal with," said Phil Flynn, analyst at Price Futures Group in Chicago.
Oil prices were under pressure prior to the report due to widening fears about slowed global economic growth. Following the EIA report, the market extended loses. US crude futures were down $1.99 per barrel, or 3.5%, at $55.12 by 10:52 a.m. EDT (1452 GMT), while Brent fell $1.94 a barrel, or 3.1%, to $59.40.
Gasoline stocks fell 1.4 million barrels, compared with forecasts for 25,000 barrel-build and were about 4% above the five-year average for this time of year, the EIA said.
US gasoline demand jumped by 281,000 bpd to a record 9.93 million bpd last week, according to EIA data going back to 1991.
Distillate stockpiles, which include diesel and heating oil, fell by 1.9 million barrels, versus expectations for a 1 million-barrel increase, the EIA data showed.
Net US crude imports fell last week by 252,000 bpd. Exports rebounded from the previous week, rising to 2.7 million bpd.
US crude production was flat last week at 12.3 million bpd.