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US crude stocks fall again as refiner ramp up, imports fall

[NEW YORK] US crude stocks fell for a fourth week as refineries hiked output to the highest rate this year and imports slid, while gasoline stocks fell from unusually high seasonal levels, data from the Energy Information Administration showed on Thursday.

Crude inventories fell by 2.8 million barrels in the last week, compared with analysts' expectations for an decrease of 857,000 barrels. US oil prices briefly retraced some of their earlier losses after the data.

Crude stocks at the Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery hub fell by 433,000 barrels, the fifth straight decline, EIA said.

Refinery crude runs rose by 237,000 barrels per day, pushing runs to 16.45 million barrels per day (bpd), the highest rate so far this year, EIA data showed. Refinery utilization rates rose by 1.2 percentage points.

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Gasoline stocks fell by 3.3 million barrels, compared with analysts' expectations in a Reuters poll for a 429,000 barrels drop. Inventories have been running at the highest saasonal rates in over a decade so far this year, but recent declines are narrowing the surplus.

Distillate stockpiles, which include diesel and heating oil, rose by 1.1 million barrels, versus expectations for a 321,000 barrels drop, the EIA data showed.

US crude imports fell last week by 477,000 barrels per day.