Crude inventories and gasoline supplies fell last week, the government said Wednesday.
Crude inventories decreased by 4.9 million barrels, or 1.5 percent, to 327.5 million barrels, which is 1.1 percent above year-ago levels, the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration said in its weekly report.
Analysts had expected a drop of 2 million barrels for the week ended Dec. 18, according to a survey by Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill Cos.
Gasoline inventories fell by 900,000 barrels, or 0.4 percent, to 216.3 million barrels, which was 3.4 percent above year-ago levels. Analyst expected stockpiles to rise 1.3 million barrels.
Demand for gasoline over the four weeks ended Dec. 18 was 0.8 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, flat from last week's level. Analysts expected capacity to rise to 80.55 percent.
Inventories of distillate fuel, which include diesel and heating oil, fell by 3.1 million barrels to 161.3 million barrels for the week ended Dec. 18. Analysts expected distillate stocks to drop by 2.25 million barrels.
Crude prices $1.88 to $76.28 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.