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UPDATE 1-U.S. crude stocks down, fuel inventories higher - EIA

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  • HO=F
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(Updates with prices, additional data)

By David Gaffen

Dec 1 (Reuters) - U.S. crude stocks fell while gasoline and distillate inventories rose as demand weakened in the most recent week, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said on Wednesday.

Oil and fuel inventories have generally been declining as demand has ramped up with the U.S. economy booming. This week's report reversed that trend, if only temporarily, and added to some of the bearish sentiment that has brought oil prices down in recent days.

Crude inventories fell by 910,000 barrels in the week to Nov. 26 to 433.1 million barrels, compared with analysts' expectations in a Reuters poll for a 1.2 million-barrel drop.

Both gasoline and distillate stocks, which include diesel and jet fuel, rose much more than expected. U.S. gasoline stocks rose by 4 million barrels in the week, the EIA said, compared with expectations for a 29,000-barrel rise.​

Distillate stockpiles, which include diesel and heating oil, rose by 2.2 million barrels versus expectations for a 462,000-barrel rise.

Overall gasoline product supplied by refiners, a proxy for demand, fell by 6% in the most recent week, though weekly figures are volatile. For the past four weeks, gasoline product supplied was 9.2 million barrels per day, in line with pre-pandemic levels in 2019.

"There was a big drop in gasoline demand. Part of that could be the holiday drop in demand, so the market shouldn’t freak out too much," said Phil Flynn, senior analyst at Price Futures Group in Chicago.

Oil futures pared gains after the report, but rebounded shortly after. Crude futures have been under pressure due to the rise of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus and after the United States announced a coordinated release of barrels to cool energy prices. U.S. futures were lately up 3.7% at $68.70 as of 10:58 a.m. EST (1558 GMT) while Brent gained 3.8% to $71.81 a barrel.

The United States released roughly 1.9 million barrels from its strategic reserves, meanwhile, after announcing plans last week for a release of 50 million barrels through loans and already approved sales over the coming months.

The Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) dropped to 602.6 million barrels, the lowest since May 2003.

Weekly production rose to 11.6 million barrels per day, the highest since May 2020, as shale drillers have added to rigs in recent weeks due to rising prices.

Refinery crude runs fell by 9,000 barrels per day in the last week, the EIA said. Refinery utilization rates rose by 0.2 percentage points. (Reporting by David Gaffen; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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