The nation's crude oil supplies fell last week, the government said Wednesday.
Crude supplies dropped by 1.2 million barrels, or 0.3 percent, to 346.3 million barrels, which is 1.8 percent below year-ago levels, the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration said in its weekly report.
Analysts expected an increase of 2.1 million barrels for the week ended March 16, according to Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill Cos.
Gasoline supplies declined by 1.2 million barrels, or 0.5 percent, to 226.9 million barrels. That's 3.3 percent more than year-ago levels. Analysts expected gasoline supplies to drop by 1.8 million barrels.
Demand for gasoline over the four weeks ended March 16 was 7.8 percent lower than a year earlier, averaging 8.4 million barrels a day.
U.S. refineries ran at 82.2 percent of total capacity on average, down 0.3 percentage point from the prior week. Analysts expected capacity to fall to 81.7 percent.
Supplies of distillate fuel, which include diesel and heating oil, increased by 1.8 million barrels to 136.6 million barrels. Analysts expected distillate stocks to shrink by 1.6 million barrels.
Benchmark crude rose 48 cents to $106.55 a barrel in New York.