By David Gaffen
(Reuters) - U.S. crude oil stocks fell last week after three straight weeks of builds as imports dropped and refineries hiked output, while gasoline inventories rose sharply amid weak demand, U.S. Energy Information Administration data showed on Wednesday.
Crude inventories <USOILC=ECI> fell 1.3 million barrels in the week to Nov. 18, compared with expectations for an increase of 671,000 barrels. Stocks at the Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery hub for crude futures <USOICC=ECI> fell 87,000 barrels, the EIA said.
Crude oil prices were relatively steady after the data, as the market continues to ready for next week's meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.
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U.S. crude futures <CLc1> oil rose 19 cents, or 0.4 percent, to $48.22 a barrel, while Brent crude <LCOc1> gained 15 cents, or 0.3 percent, to $49.27 a barrel.
U.S. crude imports <USOICI=ECI> fell last week by 833,000 barrels per day.
Refinery crude runs <USOICR=ECI> rose 271,000 bpd and utilization rates <USOIRU=ECI> gained 1.6 percentage points to 90.8 percent of total capacity, EIA data showed.
Gasoline stocks <USOILG=ECI> rose 2.3 million barrels, compared with analysts' expectations in a Reuters poll for a 643,000-barrel gain.
Gasoline demand over the past four weeks was 9.2 mln bpd, only 0.6 percent higher from a year ago.
"A solid build to gasoline inventories comes amid higher gasoline production and lower implied demand on the week," said Matt Smith, director of commodity research at ClipperData.
"On the whole, the report is a welcome distraction from OPEC talk, but fairly neutral on the whole."
Distillate stockpiles <USOILD=ECI>, which include diesel and heating oil, rose 327,000 barrels, versus expectations for a 357,000-barrel drop, the data showed.
(Reporting By David Gaffen; additional reporting by Ethan Lou in Toronto; Editing by Marguerita Choy)