The nation's crude oil supplies declined last week, the government said Wednesday.
Crude supplies shrank by 1.9 million barrels, or 0.6 percent, to 334.2 million barrels, which is 3.4 percent below year-ago levels, the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration said in its weekly report.
Analysts expected a decrease of 2 million barrels for the week ended Dec. 9, according to Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill Cos.
Gasoline supplies grew by 3.8 million barrels, or 1.8 percent, to 218.8 million barrels. That's 1.9 percent above year-ago levels. Analysts expected gasoline supplies to increase by 2 million barrels.
Demand for gasoline over the four weeks ended Dec. 9 was 4.5 percent lower than a year earlier, averaging 8.7 million barrels a day.
U.S. refineries ran at 85.1 percent of total capacity on average, 2.7 percentage points down from the prior week. Analysts expected capacity to fall to 87.7 percent.
Supplies of distillate fuel, which include diesel and heating oil, rose by 500,000 barrels to 141.5 million barrels. The increase matched analysts' expectations.
In morning trading Benchmark crude fell $3.58, or 3.6 percent, to $96.56 a barrel in New York.