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U.S. crude, gasoline inventories fall as refineries ramp up

U.S. crude oil and gasoline stockpiles fell unexpectedly last week as refiners ramped up runs to their highest in about a year to meet improved demand, the Energy Information Administration said.

Crude inventories fell by 876,000 barrels in the week to March 26, compared with analysts' expectations in a Reuters poll for an increase of 107,000 barrels. Midwest crude stocks fell to their lowest since March 2020.

Crude stocks at the Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery hub for futures rose by 782,000 barrels, EIA said.

U.S. crude futures extended gains after the data was released, trading up 42 cents a barrel at $60.97 by 10:53 a.m. ET (14:53 GMT). Brent crude pared losses, trading down $23 cents a barrel at $63.91.

"The refiners are bouncing back from the Texas power outages and are ramping up to meet improving demand," said Phil Flynn, senior analyst at Price Futures Group in Chicago. "The drawdown in gasoline supplies is very bullish," he said.

Refinery utilization rates rose by 2.3 percentage points to 83.9% of total capacity, their highest since March 2020.

Refinery crude runs rose by 552,000 barrels per day to 14.9 million bpd, also was the highest since March 2020. East Coast refiner crude net input rose to 698,000 bpd, its highest since February 2020.

Increased refinery runs helped to buck the trend of five consecutive crude stockpile builds, said Matt Smith of ClipperData.

"Gasoline inventories fell despite increased refining activity, as implied demand continues to rebound," he said.

Gasoline stocks fell by 1.7 million barrels, compared with analysts' expectations for a 730,000-barrel gain.

Distillate stockpiles, which include diesel and heating oil, rose by 2.5 million barrels, versus forecasts for a 171,000-barrel increase, the EIA data showed.

Net U.S. crude imports fell last week by 170,000 bpd, while crude production rose 100,000 bpd to 11.1 million bpd.

(Additional reporting by Stephanie Kelly in New York Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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