April 18 (Reuters) – U.S. oil stockpiles fell across the board last week with gasoline and distillates drawing down more than expected on stronger demand, sending crude prices to fresh three-and-a-half-year highs.
Crude inventories fell 1.1 million barrels in the week to April 13, the Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday, compared with analysts’ expectations for a decrease of 1.4 million barrels.
Gasoline stocks dropped by 3 million barrels, compared with analysts’ expectations in a Reuters poll for a 227,000-barrel drop.
Distillate stockpiles decreased 3.1 million barrels, versus expectations for a 268,000-barrel draw, the EIA data showed, putting overall inventories of these products, which include diesel, heating oil and jet fuel, at levels not seen seasonally since 2014.
“This may be one of the most bullish reports in some time, with the across-the-board declines in inventories,” said John Kilduff, a partner at Again Capital Management in New York.
“Gasoline demand was very strong, virtually summer-like.”
Oil prices rallied, with U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures (WTI) hitting a high of $68.45 a barrel, the highest since December 2014. As of 10:46 a.m. EDT (1446 GMT), the benchmark was up $1.65, or 2.5 percent, at $68.17 a barrel.
Brent futures gained $1.53, or 2.1 percent, to $73.11 a barrel, after hitting $73.30, highest since November 2014.
Refining runs fell, as some plants powered down for seasonal maintenance, but the drop in gasoline points to reasonably solid demand, with overall motor gasoline demand up 0.7 percent in the last four weeks compared with the same period a year ago.
Distillate product demand was down 2 percent from the same time period a year ago, but jet fuel demand rose 5.3 percent.
Refinery crude runs fell by 70,000 barrels per day as utilization rates fell by 1.1 percentage points to 92.4 percent of total capacity, the EIA data showed.
Crude stocks were also reduced as a result of net crude import declines, which fell by 1.3 million bpd last week.
Crude stocks at the Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery hub for WTI fell by 1.1 million barrels, EIA said.