RPT-UPDATE 1-U.S. crude stockpiles fall for ninth week, gasoline builds - EIA

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    NEW YORK, July 20 (Reuters) - Crude oil stocks in the United
States fell for the ninth consecutive week and gasoline
stockpiles posted a surprise build last week, data from the U.S.
Energy Information Administration showed on Wednesday.
    Crude inventories fell 2.3 million barrels in
the week ending July 15, data from the statistical arm of the
Energy Department showed, largely in line with analysts'
expectations for a decrease of 2.1 million barrels.  
    But at 519.5 million barrels, U.S. crude oil inventories are
at historically high levels for this time of year, the EIA said.
    Gasoline stocks rose 911,000 barrels after
forecasts of them remaining unchanged, and are well above the 
upper limit of the average range, the EIA said. July is seen as
the peak of a summer when Americans were expected to take to the
road at record rates.
    Stocks of the motor fuel rose in spite of gasoline output
slipping 168,000 barrels per day and refinery crude runs
 rising 319,000 bpd as utilization rates edged up
0.9 percentage points to 93.2 percent of total capacity, the EIA
data showed.    
    "While in-line with expectations, the drawdown is large
enough to provide support, and refiner demand for crude remains
elevated. The refinery production rate is more than meeting that
gasoline demand, however," said John Kilduff, partner at New
York energy hedge fund Again Capital
    "The inventory overhang of crude oil and gasoline remains a
significant limiting factor for prices."  
    U.S. crude oil futures turned positive after the
data, trading 0.4 percent higher on the day at $44.82 per barrel
by 11:12 a.m. EST (1512 GMT). 
     U.S. gasoline futures briefly extended losses to hit
a four-month low after the surprise build.
     Distillate stockpiles, which include diesel
and heating oil, fell 214,000 million barrels, versus forecasts
of a 600,000-barrels rise.
    U.S. crude imports rose by 293,000 bpd.
    Crude stocks at the Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery hub for U.S.
futures rose by 189,000 barrels, EIA said.

 (Reporting by Devika Krishna Kumar in New York; Editing by
Marguerita Choy)