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Crude oil storage tanks at the Cushing oil hub, in Cushing, Okla., on April 21, 2020.Dronebase Dronebase/Reuters

U.S. crude oil stocks rose last week but gasoline and distillate stocks fell even as refining activity increased on strong overall fuel demand, the Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday.

Crude inventories rose by 1 million barrels in the week to Nov. 19, compared with analysts’ expectations for a decrease of 481,000 barrels.

Fuel stocks have continued to decline as product demand remains strong. Gasoline stocks fell by 603,000 barrels, compared with analysts’ expectations in a Reuters poll for a 461,000-barrel drop. Stocks of gasoline are at their lowest since November 2017.

“Demand for gasoline and diesel fuel continues to be good in this holiday season and I expect that with drivers taking to the roads over the holiday, we’re going to see gasoline inventories decline next week,” said Andrew Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates in Houston.

Overall, gasoline product supplied, a measure of U.S. demand, has averaged 9.3 million barrels per day over the last four weeks, or in line with pre-pandemic levels.

“The gasoline demand is phenomenal – it’s been unrelenting since the summer, and we are not seeing any decline now,” said John Kilduff, partner at Again Capital Markets in New York.

Distillate stockpiles, which include diesel and heating oil, fell by 2 million barrels, versus expectations for a 1 million-barrel drop, the EIA data showed. Overall distillate stocks are now at their lowest since November 2018.

U.S. crude futures rose 33 cents to $78.82 a barrel. Brent crude was up 35 cents, or 0.4 per cent, at $82.66 a barrel, having jumped by 3.3 per cent on Tuesday.

Refinery crude runs rose by 243,000 bpd, EIA data showed. Refinery utilization rates rose by 0.7 percentage points.

Crude stocks at the Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery hub rose by 787,000 barrels, EIA said, the second straight increase at the key storage hub.

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