U.S. crude oil stockpiles fell last week due to a surge in exports, as the country became a net exporter of crude oil and products for the first time, underscoring the nation's growing prowess as a global supplier of oil and refined products.
Crude inventories fell 7.3 million barrels in the week to Nov. 30, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said Dec. 6, compared with analysts' expectations for a decrease of 942,000 barrels.
This was the first drop in U.S. crude stocks since September, and it came as exports surged to a record 3.2 million barrels per day (bbl/d). As a result, net crude imports to a record low of 4 million bbl/d.
For the week, the U.S. also posted net exports of 4.2 million bbl/d of products like gasoline and diesel.
That means the country became a net exporter of crude oil and refined products for the first time on record, according to EIA data, which dates back to 1991. It comes just three years after the U.S. ended a four-decade moratorium on exports of its crude oil.
"While the large crude oil inventory drop was notable, the surge in exports of crude oil to over 3 million barrels per day was remarkable," said John Kilduff, partner at energy hedge fund Again Capital LLC in New York.
U.S. oil prices were little changed after the news. The market has been lower all day due to concern that planned production cuts from OPEC will be smaller than originally anticipated.
The U.S. inventory data did not offset that, leaving the market still in the red for the day.
As of 10:37 a.m. CST (16:37 GMT), U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures were down $2.47 a barrel, or 4.7%, at $50.38 a barrel. Brent crude dropped $2.71, or 4.4%, to $58.84 a barrel.
Stocks of refined product increased, with gasoline stocks up 1.7 million barrels, compared with analysts expectations in a Reuters poll for a 1.3 million-barrel gain.
Distillate stockpiles, which include diesel and heating oil, rose by 3.8 million barrels, vs. expectations for a 1.2 million-barrel increase, the EIA data showed.
Refinery crude runs fell by 66,000 bbl/d, EIA data showed. Refinery utilization rates fell by 0.1 percentage point.