Crude inventories fell last week, while gasoline supplies grew, the government said Wednesday.
Crude inventories fell by 3.7 million barrels, or 1.1 percent, to 332.4 million barrels, which is 2.9 percent above year-ago levels, the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration said in its weekly report.
Analysts had expected a draw of 2 million barrels for the week ended Dec. 11, according to a survey by Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill Cos.
Gasoline inventories rose by 900,000 barrels, or 0.4 percent, to 217.2 million barrels. That was below analyst expectations and 5 percent above year-ago levels.
Demand for gasoline over the four weeks ended Dec. 11 was 1 percent higher than a year earlier, averaging nearly 9 million barrels a day.
At the same time, U.S. refineries ran at 80 percent of total capacity on average, a drop of 1.1 percent from the prior week. Analysts expected capacity to hold at 81.1 percent.
Inventories of distillate fuel, which include diesel and heating oil, fell by 2.9 million barrels to 164.4 million barrels for the week ended Dec. 11. Analysts expected distillate stocks to drop by 750,000 barrels.
Crude prices $2.19 to $72.88 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.