U.S. crude oil, gasoline inventories rise: EIA

(Reuters) - U.S. crude stocks rose less then expected last week, while gasoline stocks rose by more than analysts had forecast as refineries cut output, data from the Energy Information Administration showed on Wednesday.

Crude inventories rose by 1.8 million barrels in the week to Feb. 9, short of analysts’ expectations for an increase of 2.8 million barrels.

“With a big drop in refining activity as we descend deeper into maintenance season, we have seen a third consecutive build to crude stocks,” said Matt Smith, director of commodity research at ClipperData in Louisville, Kentucky.

U.S. crude futures rose on the news, with West Texas Intermediate up 42 cents to $59.61 a barrel as of 10:45 a.m. EST (1545 GMT). Brent gained 44 cents to $63.16 a barrel.

Gasoline stocks rose by 3.6 million barrels, more than double the 1.2 million-barrel gain forecast by analysts polled by Reuters.

Refinery crude runs fell by 635,000 barrels per day, EIA data showed. Refinery utilization rates fell 2.7 percentage points to 89.8 percent, lowest since November, as refiners went into seasonal maintenance periods.

Crude stocks at the Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery hub fell by 3.6 million barrels, EIA said. Overall inventories in Cushing fell to 32.7 million barrels, lowest since Jan. 2015, and inventories at the hub have been cut in half in just three months’ time.

Crude production rose again, hitting 10.27 million bpd on a weekly basis, which would be a record if confirmed by monthly figures. November’s monthly data showed production in the United States rose to 10.04 million bpd, and the country now ranks second in overall production, trailing only Russia.

Flows had been restricted from TransCanada’s Keystone line after a November leak in South Dakota, and the December startup of the Diamond Pipeline from Cushing to Memphis has accelerated outflows from the Oklahoma hub.

Distillate stockpiles, which include diesel and heating oil, fell by 459,000 barrels, versus expectations for a 1.1 million-barrel drop, the EIA data showed.

Net U.S. crude imports fell last week by 39,000 barrels per day.

Reporting By David Gaffen; Additional reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by David Gregorio