NEW YORK, Dec 16 (Reuters) - U.S. crude oil inventories dropped more than expected last week as imports fell while distillates logged a larger-than-forecast draw, the Energy Information Administration said in weekly data on Wednesday.
Commercial crude oil stockpiles in the United States fell by 3.7 million barrels to 332.4 million barrels in the week ended Dec. 11, added the agency, the statistical arm of the Department of Energy. The latest reading topped analysts' average forecast of a 1.8 million barrel drop.
Imports of crude oil were off by 365,000 barrels per day at 7.77 million bpd, EIA said.
Weekly crude stocks at Cushing, Oklahoma, the delivery point for NYMEX crude oil futures, were up last week by 700,000 barrels, EIA added.
Stockpiles of middle distillates, which include heating oil and diesel, fell by 2.9 million barrels to 164.4 million, EIA reported, by far besting forecasts of a decline of 600,000 barrels.
Heating oil stocks dropped by 2.3 million barrels to 48.3 million last week, as colder weather started to move into the U.S. Northeast, the world's largest market for the fuel.
Meanwhile, gasoline inventories increased by 900,000 barrels to 217.2 million barrels, the EIA report added, lagging analysts' projections of a 1.3 million-barrel gain.
Crude runs decreased by 117,000 bpd to 13.8 million bpd last week. Refinery utilization lost 1.1 percentage point to 80 percent of capacity, EIA added, versus analyst forecasts that it would rise by 0.3 percentage point.
The American Petroleum Institute (API) industry group on Tuesday reported that crude oil stockpiles in the United States posted a surprise gain of 924,000 barrels last week while gasoline inventories rose by 2.1 million barrels and distillates dropped by 2.6 million barrels. [ID:nN15215955] (Reporting by Haitham Haddadin; Editing by Marguerita Choy)