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Oil prices rise above USD 64 after U.S. crude supplies drop

Crude oil prices rose Friday after a U.S. government weekly fuel supply report showed an unexpected decline in crude oil stockpiles.

Light, sweet crude for July delivery added 17 cents to US$64.18 a barrel in Asian electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange, midmorning in Singapore.

"A further rise is unlikely given there are no factors to drive the price upward," said Ken Hasegawa with Tokyo brokerage Himawari CX. The Nymex crude contract on Thursday rose 52 cents to settle at US$64.01 a barrel.

The U.S. Energy Department's report showed domestic oil inventories fell 2 million barrels, or 0.6 percent, to 342.2 million barrels for the week ending May 25. It was the first draw in crude oil inventories in six weeks. Analysts polled by Dow Jones Newswires had predicted crude inventories would climb about 300,000 barrels.

Gasoline stockpiles increased by 1.3 million barrels, or 0.7 percent, to 198 million barrels last week, beating analysts' expectations of a rise of 1 million barrels.

Prices for gasoline futures have risen this spring on concerns that refineries are not producing enough to meet peak summer demand. Those concerns have been exacerbated by a higher than normal spate of unexpected refinery outages.

Gasoline production has rebounded in recent weeks, but some analysts are still concerned that the inventory increases have not been big enough. That has led to a split among analysts, with some speculating prices could head higher over the next month, while others have concluded prices have peaked.

Stocks of distillate fuel, which include diesel and heating oil, rose by 100,000 barrels to 120.4 million barrels. Distillate stocks were expected to go up about 500,000 barrels.

The report also showed that U.S. oil refineries ran at 91.1 percent of their total production capacity on average last week, unchanged from the previous week.

In other Nymex trading, natural gas futures rose a cent to US$7.945 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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