NEW YORK - Oil prices fell yesterday after a government report showed higher-than-expected gasoline and crude-oil inventories and an improvement in refinery use last week.
News that protests had ended at an oil facility in Nigeria also pressured prices.
The Energy Information Administration said crude-oil supplies rose 1 million barrels last week, twice what analysts had forecast, to 342.2 million barrels.
Gasoline stocks increased 1.7 million barrels to 195.2 million barrels, above analysts' expectations of a 900,000-barrel gain, but still well below the lower end of average for this time of year.
Light, sweet crude for June delivery fell 62 cents to settle yesterday at $62.55 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange after falling as low as $61.90 during the session. The contract rose Tuesday after news that protests in Nigeria were cutting oil production 170,000 barrels a day.
Gasoline futures, however, edged up 3.54 cents to settle at $2.3370 a gallon as concerns over U.S. gasoline supplies still lingered in the market.
"These are basically constructive numbers, seeing builds in inventories across the board," said Tim Evans, an energy analyst at Citigroup Global Markets Holdings Inc. "We're climbing out of a deep hole, but we still have 5.6 percent less gasoline than a year ago, so it's not clear that we're out of the woods yet."
An unprecedented number of refinery outages this spring have pulled down U.S. gasoline supplies the last three months, and scattered reports of minor refinery outages continue to boost prices.
The energy agency reported that refinery use rose half a percentage point to 89.5 percent of capacity last week. That was still lower than the average of 91 percent to 92 percent for this time of year, said James Cordier, an analyst at Liberty Trading Group, of Tampa, Fla.
Gasoline production also rose to an average of 9.1 million barrels a day, the report said.
Unrest in Nigeria, Africa's largest oil exporter and a major supplier to the United States, also has supported oil futures recently, although protesters yesterday abandoned a Royal Dutch Shell P.L.C. oil facility they had occupied in Ogoniland for nearly a week.
The attack was the latest incident in a series of bombings, kidnappings and protests that have slashed production by nearly one million barrels a day in Nigeria, representing about one-third of its total capacity.