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Analysis: US crude inventories climb 5.43 million barrels on rising imports: EIA

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Saudi, Iraq, Colombia, Brazil and Kuwait lead import surge

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New York — US crude inventories climbed 5.43 million barrels last week to 472.04 million barrels, as a 919,000 b/d increase in imports offset higher refinery runs, an analysis of US Energy Information Administration data showed Wednesday.

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The bulk of the stock increase was seen on the US Gulf Coast, where inventories climbed 2.93 million barrels to 242.77 million barrels. USGC crude imports rose 460,000 b/d to 2.23 million b/d last week.

While imports from Mexico and Nigeria fell last week, the US brought in more crude from Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Colombia, Brazil and Kuwait, the EIA's preliminary import data showed.

West Coast crude imports climbed 238,000 b/d to 1.37 million b/d, while imports into the US Atlantic Coast and Midwest were also higher.

With sanctions preventing Venezuela crude from entering the US, refiners have been importing alternatives. Also, refiners are returning from maintenance, bolstering demand for crude.

Data for the week ending May 17 will likely show lower crude imports, as vessels were delayed entering the Houston Ship Channel following a collision on May 10.

While vessels are now moving, as of Monday afternoon the channel had yet to fully open, so delays in crude imports will likely be reflected in the import data for the week ending May 17.

As of Tuesday, the channel was partially open to both inbound and outbound traffic. Tow traffic was open in both directions, but only one way at a time.

The size of the US crude stock build came as a surprise, as analysts were looking for a stock draw of roughly 2.3 million barrels.

That crude stocks climbed despite a 1.03 million b/d rise in crude exports to 3.35 million b/d might reflect a lag in the reporting of the export data. Crude exported from the US last week would not necessarily have been pulled from transportation-related storage terminals during the same reporting week.

STRONG MARGINS ENCOURAGE HIGH RUNS

Refiners increased crude runs by 271,000 b/d last week to 16.68 million b/d, led by a 211,000 b/d rise on the USGC to 9.11 million b/d.

Refining margins are strong, which should encourage high runs. The Mars coking margin on the USGC has averaged $7.73/b so far in May, while the WTI cracking margin has averaged $13.78/b, S&P Global Platts data shows.

While refinery runs were higher last week, US gasoline inventories fell 1.12 million barrels last week to 225.02 million barrels, the EIA data showed. USGC gasoline stocks climbed, but inventories tightened by 677,000 barrels to 59.92 million barrels on the USAC, home of the New York delivery point for the NYMEX RBOB contract.

USAC gasoline inventories were 5.8% below the five-year average last week, down from a surplus in mid-March.

US gasoline imports fell 362,000 b/d to 752,000 b/d last week, while exports climbed 294,000 b/d to 785,000 b/d, contributing to the stock draw, the EIA data showed.

US refiners upped distillate production by 175,000 b/d to 5.26 million b/d last week, contributing to an 84,000 barrel increase in inventories to 125.65 million barrels, the EIA data showed.

Diesel stocks tightened on the USAC, home to the New York delivery point for NYMEX ULSD. Combined low and ultra low sulfur diesel stocks at 32.22 million barrels were down 1.08 million barrels on the week, and roughly 12% below the five-year average.

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

-- Edited by James Bambino, newsdesk@spglobal.com