The nation's crude oil supplies rose last week, the government said Wednesday.
Crude supplies grew by 7.1 million barrels, or 2.1 percent, to 353.4 million barrels, which is 0.7 percent below year-ago levels, the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration said in its weekly report.
Analysts expected a rise of 2.75 million barrels for the week ended March 23, according to Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill Cos.
Gasoline supplies dropped by 3.5 million barrels, or 1.6 percent, to 223.4 million barrels. That's 2.9 percent above than year-ago levels. Analysts expected gasoline supplies to decline by 1.5 million barrels.
Demand for gasoline over the four weeks ended March 23 was 6.1 percent lower than a year earlier, averaging 8.4 million barrels a day.
U.S. refineries ran at 84.5 percent of total capacity on average, up 2.3 percentage points from the prior week. Analysts expected capacity to rise to 82.7 percent.
Supplies of distillate fuel, which include diesel and heating oil, shrank by 700,000 barrels to 135.9 million barrels. Analysts expected distillate stocks to drop by 1 million barrels.
Benchmark crude fell $2.04, or 2 percent, to $105.29 a barrel in New York.