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July 29 (Reuters) - U.S. crude oil stockpiles fell by nearly 11 million barrels last week as imports dropped, while refined product inventories rose, the Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday.
Crude inventories fell by 10.6 million barrels in the week to July 24 to 526 million barrels, compared with analysts’ expectations in a Reuters poll for a 357,000-barrel rise. It was the largest one-week fall in crude stocks since December.
Net U.S. crude imports fell 1 million barrels per day, the EIA said, dropping to 1.9 million bpd.
“If we are seeing a drawdown that is a key indicator in terms of largely a market that’s starting to move more aggressively into balance,” said Tony Headrick, energy markets analyst at CHS Hedging.”
U.S. gasoline stocks rose by 654,000 barrels, the EIA said, compared with forecasts for a 733,000-barrel drop.
Distillate stockpiles, which include diesel and heating oil, rose by 503,000 barrels, versus expectations for a 267,000-barrel drop, the EIA data showed.
Refinery utilization rates rose 1.6 percentage points to 79.5% of total capacity, their highest since late March. Refinery crude runs rose by 389,000 bpd last week, the EIA said. (Reporting By David Gaffen and Laura Sanicola Editing by Marguerita Choy)