A sticker indicates crude oil on the side of a storage tank in the Permian Basin in Mentone, Loving County, Texas, USA, November 22, 2019. REUTERS / Angus Mordant

June 23 (Reuters) – US crude and gasoline inventories fell sharply last week, even as refining activity edged down as demand continued to grow, the US Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday.

Crude inventories (USOILC = ECI) fell by 7.6 million barrels during the week of June 18 to 459.1 million barrels, their lowest since March 2020. The draft was almost double the expectations of analysts in a Reuters poll for a drop of 3.9 million barrels.

Crude inventories have fallen 9% since mid-March as refiners boosted activity ahead of peak driving season and the rebound in economic activity.

“You have a gasoline draw and a crude oil draw in the same week, so the apparent demand for gasoline has caught up with all the crude oil going through refineries,” Bob Yawger, director of energy futures at Mizuho in New York.

However, refinery crude cycles (USOICR = ECI) fell 225,000 barrels per day last week, with utilization rates (USOIRU = ECI) dropping 0.4 percentage points to a still high level of 92.2%.

US gasoline stocks (USOILG = ECI) fell 2.9 million barrels on the week, compared to analysts’ expectations for an increase of 833,000 barrels.

The four-week average of overall proceeds provided 19.5 million bpd, about 14.5% more than the pandemic-influenced period of a year ago. This average is still below 2019 levels, but demand continues to increase.

“People are going back to their cars again and that is reflected in the numbers,” said Phil Flynn, senior analyst at Price Futures Group.

Oil prices were higher, with US crude rising 1.4% to $ 73.84 a barrel at 10:47 a.m. EDT (1447 GMT), while Brent rose 1.2% to $ 75.72 a barrel.

Distillate inventories (USOILD = ECI), which include diesel and heating oil, rose 1.8 million barrels from an expected increase of 1.1 million barrels.

Reporting by David Gaffen

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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