Oil prices rise as U.S. gasoline inventories drop

NEW YORK, March 22 (Xinhua) -- Oil prices climbed on Wednesday as traders parsed data on U.S. fuel stockpiles.

The West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for May delivery gained 1.23 U.S. dollars, or 1.77 percent, to settle at 70.9 dollars a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude for May delivery added 1.37 dollars, or 1.82 percent, to close at 76.69 dollars a barrel on the London ICE Futures Exchange.

"The significant decline in gasoline inventories provided material support to oil markets," said Vladimir Zernov, analyst with market information supplier FX Empire.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported Wednesday that the country's crude oil inventories increased by 1.1 million barrels during the week ending March 17.

According to the EIA, total motor gasoline inventories decreased by 6.4 million barrels last week, while distillate fuel stocks fell by 3.3 million barrels.

Analysts polled by S&P Global Commodity Insights had forecast U.S. supply decreases of 2 million barrels for gasoline and 1.3 million barrels for distillates.

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