(Adds quotes in paragraphs 3 and 6, prices in paragraph 4)
Oct 1 (Reuters) - U.S. crude oil inventories unexpectedly fell last week, while a sharp reduction in refinery runs cut gasoline stocks to their lowest in nearly two years and pared distillate supplies ahead of winter, U.S. government data showed on Wednesday.
Crude inventories fell 1.4 million barrels in the week ending Sept. 26, according to the weekly figures from the Energy Information Administration, compared with analysts’ expectations for an increase of 700,000 barrels. Modest draws in eastern U.S. areas offset a larger build in West Coast stocks.
“In spite of fall refinery maintenance and high U.S. crude production, we are not seeing an overhang, which is bullish for WTI,” said Dominick Chirichella, senior partner, Energy Management Institute, New York.
U.S. crude futures rose by more than 40 cents after the data, building on an earlier rebound led by New York gasoline futures following an expiry squeeze.
RBOB gasoline was up 1.6 percent after the data showed stocks of the motor fuel fell 1.8 million barrels to their lowest level since November 2012.
U.S. oil prices suffered their biggest one-day drop since 2012 on Tuesday and are struggling to recover from near their lowest prices in almost a year and a half.
“Every time oil rises, it falls on fear of slowing economies and ample supply. The market is still looking for a bottom,” said Gene McGillian, analyst, Tradition Energy in Stamford, Connecticut.
Crude stocks at the Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery hub rose 315,000 barrels, EIA said.
The overall decline in crude stocks came despite refinery crude runs falling 525,000 barrels per day, EIA data showed. Utilization rates dropped 3.6 percentage points to 89.8 percent of total capacity as many plants began shutting for seasonal maintenance. Crude imports also rose last week by 379,000 bpd.
The EIA pegged U.S. domestic oil production at 8.8 million bpd, down 30,000 bpd from the previous week but still 1 million bpd more than a year ago due to booming shale production.
Distillate stockpiles, which include diesel and heating oil, fell 2.9 million barrels, versus expectations for a 100,000-barrel drop, the EIA data showed. (Reporting by Jonathan Leff; Editing by Marguerita Choy)