U.S. crude oil stockpiles last week fell less than expected, while gasoline inventories increased and distillates stocks fell, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said Dec. 12.

Crude inventories fell by 1.2 million barrels in the week to Dec. 7, compared with analysts' expectations for a decrease of 3 million barrels.

The crude drawdown was also short of an over 10 million-barrel decline reported late Dec. 11 by industry group The American Petroleum Institute.

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"The market is disappointed that the EIA did not confirm the 10 million-barrel crude oil inventory draw we saw in the API statistics yesterday and as a result the crude oil price has come off," said Andrew Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates in Houston.

After the EIA data release, U.S. crude futures fell from earlier highs and were up 24 cents to $51.89 a barrel as of 9:49 a.m. CST (15:49 GMT). Brent were 59 cents higher at $60.78 a barrel.

Gasoline stocks rose by 2.1 million barrels, compared with analysts' expectations in a Reuters poll for a 2.5 million-barrel gain.

Distillate stockpiles, which include diesel and heating oil, fell by 1.5 million barrels, vs. expectations for a 1.8 million-barrel increase, the EIA data showed.

"Overall, demand is still strong in the U.S., which should be supportive. The crude oil build and the gasoline build was one of the negative factors, but looking at the overall report, there’s nothing really bearish in here,” said Phil Flynn, analyst at Price Futures Group in Chicago.

Refinery crude runs fell by 51,000 barrels per day (bbl/d), EIA data showed. Refinery utilization rates fell by 0.4 percentage point.

Net U.S. crude imports rose last week by 1.1 million bbl/d.

In the week to Nov. 30, the U.S. became a net exporter of oil for the first time in decades, shipping out a net 211,000 bbl/d when looking at combined totals for crude and fuel. That reversed this week, as the U.S. imported a net 1.3 million bbl/d of crude and fuel, largely due to a rebound in U.S. imports.

Crude stocks at the Cushing, Okla., delivery hub rose by 1.1 million barrels, EIA said.

U.S. crude production dipped 100,000 bbl/d to 11.6 million bbl/d last week, the EIA said.