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Analysis: US crude stocks decline 3.96 million barrels as imports fall

New York — US crude inventories fell 3.96 million barrels last week, as a decline in imports outpaced lower crude exports and refinery runs, an analysis of Energy Information Administration data showed Wednesday.

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The stock draw was led by the US Gulf Coast, where inventories fell 4.76 million barrels to 239.85 million barrels. USGC crude imports fell 368,000 b/d to 1.77 million b/d, while US crude exports, which are primarily from the USGC, fell 289,000 b/d to 2.32 million b/d.

USGC refinery inputs edged lower by 18,000 b/d to 8.89 million b/d, the EIA data showed.

The crude stock draw was slightly bullish for NYMEX crude futures. While the draw came in above analysts' expectations of a 2.2 million-barrel decline, it left US crude stocks at 466.6 million barrels, a roughly 2% surplus to the five-year average. USGC crude inventories were at a 3.2% surplus to the five-year average.

While more Mexican, Nigerian and Brazilian crude entered the US last week, the EIA data showed a decline in imports from Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Colombia, Kuwait, Venezuela and Canada.

No crude was imported from Venezuela, which should come as no surprise considering US sanctions are acting as a de facto ban. Several Venezuelan crude cargoes arrived in April, although these were drawn from offshore storage.

US crude exports, while lower last week, remained within the roughly 2 million-3 million b/d range seen since the beginning of the year.

US exports of crude are expected to remain steady, as arbitrages have been open to Europe and Asia. S&P Global Platts ship-tracking software cFlow showed crude exports to Asia and "unknown" locations rising last week, although that increase was offset by declines to Latin America and Europe.

Any growth in exports to Asia will likely be driven by an open arbitrage to export Mars, which has been open since late April, according to S&P Global Platts Analytics.

REFINED PRODUCTS DRAW

In refined products, US gasoline inventories fell 596,000 barrels last week to 226.15 million barrels, leaving stocks at a slight deficit to the five-year average, the EIA data showed.

Gasoline stocks climbed 1.09 barrels to 60.6 million barrels on the US Atlantic Coast, home of the New York-delivery point for the NYMEX RBOB contract. The build tightened the deficit to the five-year average slightly to 5% from 5.8% the prior week.

A 245,000 b/d rise in USAC gasoline imports helped push inventories higher, and was the main contributor to a rise in total US imports of 1.14 million b/d, the EIA data showed.

US gasoline exports fell 197,000 b/d to 491,000 b/d.

US distillate inventories fell 159,000 barrels last week to 125.56 million barrels, the EIA data showed.

Combined low and ultra low sulfur diesel inventories were 562,000 barrels higher last week at 33.3 million barrels on the USAC, home to the New York delivery point for the NYMEX ULSD contract. The build narrowed the deficit to the five-year average to 9% from 11% the prior week.

The deficit to the five-year average on the USGC widened to 12.5% from 10.2%, courtesy of a 1.2 million-barrel inventory draw to 33.18 million barrels.

The draw was driven in part by a rise in exports. US distillate exports, which are primarily from the USGC, climbed 164,000 b/d last week to 1.33 million b/d.

-- Jeff Mower, jeff.mower@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Derek Sands, newsdesk@spglobal.com