Crude inventories rose less than expected last week, while gasoline supplies dropped, the government said Wednesday.
Crude inventories rose by 1.4 million barrels, or 0.4 percent, to 343 million barrels, which is 3.7 percent below year-ago levels, the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration said in its weekly report.
Analysts had expected a build of 2.1 million barrels for the week ended March 5, according to a survey by Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill Cos.
Gasoline inventories fell by 2.9 million barrels, or 1.3 percent, to 229 million barrels. That decline was steeper than analysts had forecast and brought stockpiles 6.1 percent above year-ago levels.
Demand for gasoline over the four weeks ended March 5 was half a percent higher than a year earlier, averaging nearly 8.9 million barrels a day.
At the same time, U.S. refineries ran at 80.7 percent of total capacity on average, a drop of 1.2 percent from the prior week. Analysts expected capacity to build to 82 percent.
Inventories of distillate fuel, which include diesel and heating oil, fell by fell by 2.2 million barrels to 149.6 million barrels for the week ended March 5. Analysts expected distillate stocks to drop by 950,000 barrels.
Crude prices rose $1.26 to $82.75 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
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