U.S. crude stockpiles fell last week despite a hefty build at the Cushing, Oklahoma hub while gasoline and distillate inventories rose as refining rates picked up, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday.
Crude inventories USOILC=ECI fell 2.4 million barrels in the week ended Dec. 2, compared with analyst expectations for a draw of 1 million barrels.
A heavy decline in U.S. Gulf Coast inventories pulled overall crude stocks down, as the PADD 3 region saw a 6.9 million-barrel drawdown.
Crude stocks at the Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery hub for U.S. crude futures USOICC=ECI, however, jumped by 3.8 million barrels, EIA said.
Prices across the energy complex fell on the data, pointing to the larger-than-expected increase in product inventories in what has so far been a mild December across most of the United States.
"The report was bearish despite the overall crude oil drawdown," said John Kilduff, partner at energy hedge fund Again Capital LLC in New York.
"Refined product inventories rose by a substantial amount, due to elevated refining activity, back above 90 percent utilization, and lowered demand, especially for gasoline."
Refinery crude runs USOICR=ECI rose 134,000 barrels per day as utilization rates USOIRU=ECI gained 0.6 percentage point to 90.4 percent of total capacity, EIA data showed.
Gasoline stocks USOILG=ECI rose 3.4 million barrels, compared with analysts' expectations in a Reuters poll for a 1.9 million-barrel gain.
Distillate stockpiles USOILD=ECI, which include diesel and heating oil, increased by 2.5 million barrels, versus expectations for a 1.8 million-barrel increase, the EIA data showed.
"The solid builds to the products, despite being a seasonal trend, are helping to usher the crude complex lower," said Matt Smith, director of commodity research at ClipperData in Louisville, Kentucky.
By 10:50 a.m. (1550 GMT), U.S. crude futures CLc1 fell 94 cents, or 1.8 percent, to $49.99 a barrel, while Brent crude LCOc1 was down 1.3 percent, or 72 cents, to $53.21 a barrel. U.S. RBOB gasoline 1RBc1 dropped 1.3 percent to $1.516 a gallon.
U.S. crude imports USOICI=ECI rose last week by 730,000 barrels per day.
(Reporting By David Gaffen; Editing by Marguerita Choy)