UPDATE 1-U.S. crude stocks build, Cushing falls as glut eases-EIA
By Elizabeth Dilts
NEW YORK Feb 20 (Reuters) - U.S. crude oil stocks rose almost 1 million barrels to 362 million barrels and fell 1.73 million barrels at the Cushing storage hub, indicating ample supply flowing to the Gulf Coast, Energy Information Administration data showed on Thursday.
Analysts polled by Reuters had expected a nationwide build of 2 million barrels, and U.S. benchmark oil futures rose about 20 cents in the immediate minutes after the data was issued. By 12:05 a.m. EST (1705 GMT), they were 0.11 percent lower at $103.20 a barrel.
Crude stocks amounted to 35.87 million barrels at Cushing and rose on the Gulf Coast by 2.5 million barrels to 176 million barrels, a sign that, thanks to new pipelines, an increasing amount of oil is being moved from storage to the huge refining hub in states such as Texas and Louisiana.
TransCanada Corp's 700,000 barrel per day (bpd) Gulf Coast pipeline, running from Cushing to Texas, is ramping up after it began service in late January. The pipeline flowed at initial rates of 300,000 bpd.
Market players have debated whether a glut of oil at Cushing, where stocks hit record highs last year, would just be moved to the Gulf Coast as pipelines become operational and in the absence of any possibilities of exporting excess oil.
That would be bearish for U.S. benchmark oil prices in the long term. However, Richard Hastings, macro strategist at Global Hunter Securities in California, said the export of refined products is supportive of prices.
"I'm not concerned about the build in PADD 3. The theoretical model that U.S. crude oil prices will be determined by a Gulf Coast oil bloat is not logical. ... If you look at Gulf Coast inventories as a percentage of U.S. stocks, it's going back to 51-52 percent of commercial crude," he said. Continued...