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FILE PHOTO: Crude oil storage tanks are seen from above at the Cushing oil hub, in Cushing, Oklahoma, March 24, 2016. REUTERS/Nick Oxford/File Photo

Nick Oxford/Reuters

U.S. crude oil stockpiles edged higher last week, rising less than expected as refiners ramped up activity, while distillate inventories slumped on stronger demand, the Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday.

Crude inventories rose by 90,000 barrels in the week ended April 23 to 493.1 million barrels, compared with analysts’ expectations in a Reuters poll for a 659,000-barrel rise.

Net crude imports rose by 1.2 million barrels per day to 4.08 million bpd, their highest since December, while crude production dropped 100,000 bpd to 10.9 million bpd, the EIA said.

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Refinery crude runs rose by 253,000 bpd last week, EIA said, bringing refinery utilization rates to 85.4 per cent of capacity, their highest since March of last year. Gulf Coast refining utilization rose to its highest since the same time as U.S. fuel demand picks up.

Distillate stockpiles, which include diesel and heating oil, fell by 3.3 million barrels in the week to 139.1 million barrels, versus expectations for a 648,000-barrel drop, the EIA data showed.

“Distillate has been such a stud lately. Between planting season and online truck deliveries you have a nice number in the diesel. Planting season is doing wonders for the distillate market,” said Bob Yawger, director of energy futures at Mizuho.

After the data, U.S. crude futures were trading 1.8 per cent, or $1.15 a barrel, higher at $64.09 as of 10:45 a.m. EDT, while Brent rose $1.06 to $67.48 a barrel.

Gasoline stocks rose by 92,000 barrels in the week, compared with analysts’ expectations in a Reuters poll for a 508,000-barrel rise.

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