WASHINGTON (DTN) -- New York Mercantile Exchange oil futures moved mixed in late morning trade Wednesday, with the front-month West Texas Intermediate contract briefly falling below $95 barrel (bbl) after government data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported nationwide crude oil and distillate fuel inventories unexpectedly increased during the week ended March 12, offsetting a large drop in gasoline supplies even as demand for the motor transportation fuel stalled near a 1 1/2-month high.
Near 11:30 a.m. EDT, the front-month WTI futures traded little changed near $96.37 bbl, and the international crude benchmark Brent contract declined $0.95 to $98.96 bbl. NYMEX March RBOB futures gained 0.65 cents to $3.0064 gallon, having later reversed down, with front-month ULSD futures surging 4.90 cents to $3.0826 gallon.
EIA data showed U.S. commercial crude stockpiles jumped by 4.3 million bbl from the previous week to 415.9 million bbl and are now about 12% below the five-year average. Analysts had estimated crude stockpiles would decrease by 1.8 million bbl from the prior week. Oil stored at the Cushing hub in Oklahoma, the delivery point for WTI futures, climbed 1.8 million bbl from the previous week to 24 million bbl, EIA said in its weekly report.
U.S. crude oil production was unchanged from the previous week at 11.6 million barrels per day (bpd).
In its Short-term Energy Outlook released this week, the EIA forecasted domestic oil production would rise to a 2022 average of 12 million bpd and then to a record-high production rate on an annual-average basis of 13 million bpd in 2023.
The unexpected crude build came even as domestic refiners increased run rates by a larger-than-expected 1.1% to 90.4% -- the highest run rate since the final week of August. U.S. crude oil refinery inputs averaged 15.6 million bpd during the week ended March 11 -- 224,000 bpd more than the previous week's average.
In the gasoline complex, commercial inventories fell 3.6 million bbl to 241 million bbl compared with analyst expectations for inventories to have decreased by 2.1 million bbl from the previous week. Demand for motor gasoline increased slightly to 8.944 million bpd -- the second highest weekly rate since the start of the year.
Distillate stocks, meanwhile, rose 332,000 bbl to 114.2 million bbl, and are now about 16% below the five-year average, EIA said. Analysts expected distillate inventories had fallen 2.1 million bbl from the previous week. Demand for distillate fuels decreased by a steep 883,000 bpd from the prior week to 3.704 million bpd.
Total products supplied over the last four-week period averaged 21 million bpd, up 12.2% from the same period last year. Over the past four weeks, motor gasoline product supplied averaged 8.8 million bpd, up 8.6% from the same period last year. Distillate fuel product supplied averaged 4.2 million bpd over the past four weeks, up 4.6% from the same period last year. Jet fuel product supplied was up 39.3% compared with the same four-week period last year.
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