By Dan Molinski

U.S. crude oil inventories declined much more than expected for the week ended Dec. 30, but fuel stockpiles rose higher, according to data released Thursday by the Energy Information Administration.

Crude-oil stockpiles decreased by 7.1 million barrels, to 479 million barrels, which is near the upper limit of the average range for this time of year, the EIA said. Analysts surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had predicted crude supplies would fall by 2 million barrels on the week.

Oil stored at Cushing, Okla., the delivery point for U.S. stocks, increased by 1.1 million barrels, to 67.5 million barrels, the EIA said in its weekly report.

Gasoline stockpiles increased by a hefty 8.3 million barrels, to 235.5 million barrels. Analysts were expecting gasoline inventories to rise by just 1.3 million barrels from the previous week.

Distillate stocks, which include heating oil and diesel fuel, surged by 10.1 million barrels, to 161.7 million barrels, which is above the upper limit of the average range, the EIA said. Analysts were forecasting supplies to increase by 500,000 barrels from a week earlier.

Refining capacity utilization rose by a full percentage point from the previous week, to 92.0%. Analysts were expecting utilization levels to rise by 0.4 percentage point.

U.S. oil inventories for week ended Dec. 30:

Crude Gasoline Distillates Refinery Use

EIA data: -7.1 +8.3 +10.1 +1.0

Forecast: -2.0 +1.3 +0.5 +0.4

Write to Dan Molinski at dan.molinski@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 05, 2017 11:31 ET (16:31 GMT)

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