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U.S. crude stockpiles post surprise large build

(Reuters) - U.S. crude oil stockpiles last week posted a large build that took analysts by surprise, as inventories in the Cushing, Oklahoma, storage hub gained while the market continued to recover from a winter storm last month, data from the Energy Information Administration showed on Thursday.

Winter Storm Elliott last month brought sub-freezing temperatures and extreme weather alerts to about two-thirds of the United States, forcing oil and gas well freeze-ins at the time.

Crude inventories rose by 8.4 MM in the week to Jan. 13 to about 448 MM, their highest since June 2021, EIA data showed. Analysts in a Reuters poll had expected a 593,000-barrel drop.

Crude stocks at the Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery hub rose by 3.6 million barrels to 31.4 million, the highest since January 2022, the data showed.

"It's all a function of the freeze-in still," Bob Yawger, director of energy futures at Mizuho in New York, said of the build at Cushing. "Nobody is in a hurry to bring back refineries."

"Until that happens, you're not going to get a draw," he added.

Crude production held steady last week at 12.2 MMbpd  and net U.S. crude imports fell by 1.2 million bpd.

Refinery utilization rates rose by 1.2% to 85.3% of total capacity. Utilization rates, however, were above 90% before the storm.

Refinery crude runs rose by about 202,000 bpd.

Gasoline stocks rose by about 3.5 MM barrels in the week, the EIA said, compared with analysts' expectations for a 2.5 MM-barrel gain.​

Distillate stockpiles, which include diesel and heating oil, fell by 1.9 million barrels in the week, versus expectations for a 122,000-barrel build, the data showed.

Oil prices were mixed on the data and pared gains before recovering. Brent crude futures rose 88 cents to trade at $85.86 a barrel by 11:40 a.m. EST (1640 GMT). U.S. crude futures rose 56 cents to $80.04 a barrel.

(Reporting by Stephanie Kelly, additional reporting by Laila Kearney Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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