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By Devika Krishna Kumar
NEW YORK, April 17 (Reuters) - U.S. crude oil stockpiles fell unexpectedly last week as imports dropped, while gasoline and distillate inventories decreased less than forecasts, the Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday.
Crude inventories fell by 1.4 million barrels in week to April 12, compared with analysts' expectations for an increase of 1.7 million barrels. A majority of the decline came from the Midwest region, where inventories fell 2.4 million barrels to 135.3 million barrels.
Net U.S. crude imports fell last week by 659,000 barrels per day (bpd).
Crude stocks at the Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery hub for U.S. crude futures fell by 1.54 million barrels, EIA said.
Oil prices edged higher on the day as the markets focused on the inventory declines across the energy complex. U.S. gasoline prices were up nearly 1 percent near the highest levels since October.
Gasoline stocks fell by 1.2 million barrels, less than analysts' expectations in a Reuters poll for a 2.1 million-barrel drop.
Distillate stockpiles, which include diesel and heating oil, fell 362,000 barrels, also not as much as forecasts for a 846,000-barrel drawdown, the EIA data showed.
"With the refinery runs coming in a little higher, this is a very supportive report," said Phil Flynn, an analyst at Price Futures Group in Chicago.
Refinery crude runs fell by 22,000 barrels per day, EIA data showed. Refinery utilization rates edged up 0.2 percentage point to 87.7 percent of total capacity.
"We still saw a big build in Gulf Coast crude supplies, so it shows you there are still some issues on the Gulf Coast a little bit. We’re easing but not as much as you might think," Flynn said.
Last week, Lyondell Basell Industries was holding production 9 percent below the 263,776-bpd capacity of its Houston refinery because of shipping restrictions following a late March chemical spill in the Houston Ship Channel.
Royal Dutch Shell's 275,000 bpd joint-venture Deer Park, Texas, refinery returned to normal production late last week after cutting production and came within days of shutting down due to constrained crude shipments.
Reporting by Devika Krishna Kumar in New York; additional reporting by Stephanie Kelly Editing by Marguerita Choy