NEW YORK, May 30 (Reuters) - U.S. gasoline inventories fell last week as motorists topped up their tanks ahead of the Memorial Day holiday weekend, government data showed on Thursday, while stocks of crude oil rose to their highest level on record.
In its weekly report on fuel supplies, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said stockpiles of gasoline fell by 1.5 million barrels in the week ended on Friday, with more than half of the drop on the heavily populated East Coast.
Oil traders took the decline as a signal that the recent drop in wholesale prices might be coming to an end. Benchmark RBOB gasoline futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange climbed off a four-week low of $2.75 a gallon after the report's release to trade back above $2.82.
The 841,000-barrel drop in East Coast gasoline stocks was of particular interest, oil traders said, after stocks had risen to a 14-year high for the time of year last week despite a series of refinery closures in the region in recent years.
U.S. crude oil stocks, which have swollen amid a production boom to the highest level on record, touched a fresh peak last week with a rise of 3 million barrels to 397.55 million. That is almost 13 million barrels over the level of last year.
In the Midwest, where much of the new U.S. production is centered, stocks also stood at a record peak, touching 118.38 million barrels after rising by almost 900,000 last week.
Stocks at Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery point of the U.S. crude oil contract, rose by 335,000 barrels to 50.51 million. (Reporting by David Sheppard; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)