The data suggest that demand for crude oil and gasoline is softening ahead of the critical summer driving season. Gasoline demand, as measured by delivery movements out of storage at refineries, fell 117,000 barrels last week, said the EIA, the statistical arm of the U.S. Department of Energy.
Analysts surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires had expected oil inventories to rise 1.2 million barrels. Gasoline supplies were seen falling 700,000 barrels, while stocks of distillates were expected to remain unchanged.
The EIA report also said stockpiles in Cushing, Okla., rose 1.1 million barrels to a near-record 41.6 million barrels. Rising inventories at the key oil hub and Nymex delivery point have been depressing the price of the main Nymex crude-oil contract this year. The discount of the Nymex's light, sweet crude-oil contract to Brent crude oil rose to above $14 a barrel Wednesday.