NEW YORK, April 24 (Reuters) - U.S. crude stocks rose last week as crude imports increased, and gasoline inventories fell by nearly 4 million barrels as refineries cut utilization rates, government data from the Energy Information Administration showed on Wednesday.
Crude inventories rose by 947,000 barrels to 388.59 million barrels in the week to April 19, compared with analysts’ expectations for a larger rise of 1.5 million barrels.
U.S. crude imports rose by 131,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 7.52 million bpd last week, EIA said.
Gasoline stocks fell sharply last week as plant utilization dropped, by 2.8 percentage points to 83.5 percent of total capacity. Analysts had expected a rise in refinery utilization of 0.3 percentage point in a Reuters poll.
U.S. gasoline stocks dropped 3.93 million barrels, compared with analysts’ expectations for a smaller decline of 200,000 barrels.
Four-week average gasoline demand fell 1.7 percent from year-ago levels, the EIA reported.
Distillate fuels, which include diesel and heating oil, rose 97,000 barrels, compared with expectations for a rise of 300,000 barrels.
U.S. oil futures pared earlier gains after the data. By 11:07 a.m. EDT (1507 GMT) they were up 96 cents a barrel at $90.14. Before the data, oil had been up by around $1.10 per barrel.
“This is a mildly bearish report. The reason you have a draw on gasoline is because refinery operations are off,” said Mark Waggoner at Excel Futures in Bend, Oregon.
Crude stocks at delivery hub Cushing, Oklahoma, rose 35,000 barrels to 51.18 million barrels.
Gasoline stocks were mixed on a regional basis. East Coast gasoline stockpiles rose by 570,000 barrels to just over 60.5 million barrels, the highest level since March 2012. Gulf Coast stocks of the fuel declined by 1.75 million barrels to 71.86 million barrels, the lowest level since October 2012.
Gasoline stocks in the Midwest fell to the lowest since December, while West Coast gasoline stocks declined to the lowest since last August, EIA data showed.
Gulf Coast crude stockpiles rose 2.85 million barrels to nearly 188 million barrels, the highest level since July 2012. Midwest crude inventories hit a record high over 118 million barrels, up 1.4 million barrels on the week.
U.S. exports of refined products held steady at 2.85 million bpd last week, with finished gasoline shipments down to 485,000 bpd from 548,000 bpd in the previous reporting period.
Distillate shipments declined to 832,000 bpd from 850,000 bpd. Exports of other oils rose to nearly 900,000 bpd.
Exports of crude oil rose slightly to 47,000 bpd from 45,000 bpd the previous week, according to the EIA data.