(Adds analyst comments, crude oil futures prices, details)
NEW YORK, April 1 (Reuters) – U.S. crude inventories rose last week to a record high for the 12th straight week, while gasoline stocks fell more than four times than expected as demand grew for the motor fuel, data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) showed on Wednesday.
Crude inventories rose 4.8 million barrels to 471.4 million in the week to March 27, compared with analysts’ expectations for an increase of 4.2 million barrels.
Gasoline stocks fell 4.3 million barrels, far more than analysts’ expectations in a Reuters poll for a 943,000-barrel drop. Gasoline demand over the past four weeks was up 1.9 percent from a year ago.
“The large decline in gasoline inventories is notable, as is the four-week average demand of 9 million barrels per day, which is strong,” said John Kilduff, partner, Again Capital LLC in New York. “Clearly, there is a demand response underway by consumers to the low retail price.”
Crude stocks at the Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery hub rose 2.7 million barrels to 58.9 million, the EIA said. Cushing stockpiles hit a record two weeks ago and have continued to rise.
Crude futures rose immediately after the data as the EIA report was not as bearish as industry group the American Petroleum Institute’s late Tuesday estimate of a 5.2 million-barrel build in crude supplies.
U.S. May crude futures were up $1.25 at $48.85 a barrel at 10:57 a.m. EDT (1457 GMT). Brent was up $1.12 at $56.23 a barrel.
Refinery crude runs rose 198,000 barrels per day (bpd), EIA data showed. Refinery utilization rates rose by 0.4 percentage point to 89.04 percent of capacity.
“I need to see this decline in product inventories continue for the next few weeks, with the maintenance season coming off, to be convinced that demand is really kicking in,” said Gene McGillian, senior analyst at Tradition Energy in Stamford, Connecticut.
Distillate stockpiles, which include diesel and heating oil, rose 1.3 million barrels, versus expectations for a 286,000-barrel drop, the EIA data showed.
U.S. crude imports fell last week by 44,000 bpd to 6.9 million bpd.
(Reporting by Robert Gibbons, editing by Jessica Resnick-Ault and Marguerita Choy)
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