Crude oil inventories fell 1.9 million barrels in the November 17 week to 457.1 million, 6.5 percent below the level a year ago. Gasoline inventories remained unchanged on the week at 210.5 million barrels, 6.0 percent below last year's level, while distillates rose by 0.3 million barrels to 125.0 million, down 16.2 percent from last year. The week's decline in crude oil inventories removed exactly the amount built in the prior week but was much smaller than the 6.4 million barrel drop reported to subscribers by the American Petroleum Institute (API), a private industry group. WTI prices, which had earlier been driven to new highs for the year partly on the back of the API data, fell about 40 cents to around $57.30 per barrel immediately following the release of the EIA report.
Refineries nudged up operations by 0.3 percentage points during the week to 91.3 percent of their operable capacity. Gasoline production increased sharply by 500,000 barrels per day to an average of 10.4 million barrels per day. Distillate production also rose but only slightly to an average of 5.3 million barrels per day.
Crude oil imports fell marginally, averaging about 7.9 million barrels per day, down by 25,000 barrels per day from the prior week. The 4-week daily average for imports remained unchanged at 7.7 million barrels, but the year-on-year decline widened to 5.3 percent.
The demand side slightly eased though remaining strong and fractionally in positive year-on-year territory, with total product supplied over the last four weeks averaging 20.0 million barrels per day, up 0.1 percent from last year. Gasoline supplied averaged 9.4 million barrels per day, up 2.6 percent from the same period last year. Distillate product supplied averaged 4.0 million barrels per day, up 0.8 percent year-on-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. However, current prices at 2-year highs are likely to stimulate new exploration and development activities, increasing domestic production and supply down the road.