By Barani Krishnan and Ethan Lou
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Oil prices settled up on Thursday after a U.S. government report showing hefty draws in diesel and gasoline offset the first crude inventory build in six weeks.
Crude prices fell initially when the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said crude stocks swelled 4.9 million barrels in the week ended Oct. 7. It was the first crude build since the end of August and was far above a 700,000-barrel rise forecast by analysts in a Reuters poll. [EIA/S]
Prices bounced back as the market turned its attention to product inventory drawdowns in the same EIA data. The EIA reported a drop of 3.7 million barrels for distillates, which include diesel and heating oil, and 1.9 million barrels decline for gasoline.
Analysts had expected distillates to draw by just 1.6 million barrels and gasoline to decline by 1.5 million.
Brent crude <LCOc1> settled up 22 cents, or 0.4 percent, at $52.03 per barrel.
U.S. crude <CLc1> ended up 26 cents, or 0.5 percent, at $50.44.
"There is a lot of seasonality in this data," Scott Shelton, energy futures broker at ICAP in Durham, North Carolina, said, referring to the EIA inventory report.
Shelton said crude builds were common this time of year as U.S. refineries headed into maintenance.
The rise in crude imports by 110,000 barrels per day (bpd) last week was also "marginal" and "hard to get too excited about if you were bearish", he argued.
John Kilduff, partner at New York energy hedge fund Again Capital, said that while more crude builds were likely in the coming weeks due to depressed refinery runs, "the declines in distillate fuels, of late, are starting to add up".
"We remain a long way from supplies getting tight, but it is a trend worth monitoring," Kilduff added.
In a separate report, the EIA said U.S. crude output averaged 8.7 million bpd in 2016 versus 9.4 million bpd last year. But it also said oil demand growth was expected to slow to 70,000 bpd this year from a previously forecast 200,000 bpd.
Oil prices have trended higher since Sept. 27, with Brent gaining about 13 percent, after the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries announced its first planned output cut in eight years to rein in a global supply glut that forced crude to crash from highs above $100.
Despite its expressed desire to cut output, OPEC this week reported September production at eight-year highs.
Oil industry executives and investors at a Reuters Summit differed on how OPEC action will likely affect oil prices, with some expecting $60 by year-end and others seeing a return to $40.
(Additional reporting by Ahmad Ghaddar in LONDON and Henning Gloystein in SINGAPORE; Editing by Bill Trott, Chizu Nomiyama and David Gregorio)