The U.S. Energy Information Administration reported March 13 in its "Weekly Petroleum Status Report" that gasoline inventories declined for the fourth consecutive week as refinery runs edged higher in the week to March 8.
Total U.S. crude oil inputs climbed 0.2% on the week to 16.0 million barrels per day for a trailing four-week average of 15.8 million bbl/d, down 1.0% from the same period a year ago and 1.9% higher than the average seen during the previous five years. The EIA pegged U.S. refinery utilization at 87.6%, down from the year-ago level of 90.0% and in line with the five-year average, with all regions seeing utilization below 90%.
The weak gasoline market has weighed on investor sentiment and even stressed a Philadelphia refinery that just emerged from bankruptcy, but refining executives suggested that the polar vortex that gripped much of the country earlier in the winter would lead to lower refinery runs and help ease the stockpile glut weighing on the gasoline market.
However, gasoline production remains above average. Finished motor gasoline production climbed 3.7% from the prior week to bring the trailing four-week average to 9.8 million bbl/d, down 1.3% from the year-ago level but up 2.1% versus the five-year average.
Distillate production declined 1.3% on the week, bringing the trailing four-week average to 4.8 million bbl/d, up 6.8% year over year and up 3.5% versus the five-year average.
U.S. crude oil inventories, excluding the strategic petroleum reserve, declined 3.9 million barrels from the week prior to 449.1 million barrels, while total gasoline inventories declined by 4.6 million barrels to 246.1 million barrels. Distillate inventories climbed by 383,000 barrels to 136.4 million barrels.