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US crude oil supplies grew by 2.6 million barrels

NEW YORK (AP) -- The nation's crude oil supplies increased last week, the government said Wednesday.

Crude supplies rose by 2.6 million barrels, or 0.7 percent, to 384 million barrels, which is 10.5 percent above year-ago levels, the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration said in its weekly report.

Analysts expected an increase of 2.3 million barrels for the week ended March 8, according to Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill Cos.

Gasoline supplies shrank by 3.6 million barrels, or 1.6 percent, to 224.3 million barrels. That's 1.7 percent below year-ago levels. Analysts expected gasoline supplies to drop by 1.5 million barrels.

Demand for gasoline over the four weeks ended March 8 was 1.1 percent higher than a year earlier, averaging about 8.5 million barrels a day.

U.S. refineries ran at 81 percent of total capacity on average, down 1.2 percentage points from the prior week. Analysts expected capacity to be unchanged.

Supplies of distillate fuel, which include diesel and heating oil, grew by 100,000 barrels to 120.4 million barrels. Analysts expected distillate stocks to decline by 2 million barrels.

Benchmark crude futures rose 48 cents to $93.02 a barrel in New York.