UPDATE 1-US crude stocks fall even as output hits 1988 high -EIA
(Adds more data, analyst comment, updates prices)
NEW YORK, Dec 27 (Reuters) - U.S. crude oil stocks fell 4.7 million barrels last week as the Gulf Coast continued to shed inventories, even as U.S. oil production reached a 25-year high, data from the Energy Information Administration showed on Friday.
The 4.7-million-barrel fall to 368 million barrels was far higher than a 2.3-million-barrel drawdown expected by analysts polled by Reuters and compares with a 716,000-barrel build estimated by the American Petroleum Institute on Tuesday.
Crude oil stocks on the Gulf Coast fell 5.14 million barrels in the week ending Dec. 20 to 176 million barrels.
Stocks traditionally fall on the Gulf Coast in December as inventory holders seek to avoid paying the tax that is levied on them at the end of the year.
"It looks to me as though some of that Gulf Coast storage was eager to unload barrels as tax season approaches. That will probably be the common theme for next week as well," said Bob Yawger, director of commodities futures at Mizuho Securities in New York.
However, record crude oil production thanks to a shale revolution means refineries across the country have been running at high capacities to gain from cheap feedstock prices, strong margins and a healthy refined product export market.
The EIA data showed refiners on the Gulf Coast ran at 95.6 percent of their capacity last week - the highest level in a year, as oil production across the country reached 8.11 million barrels a day, the highest since September 1988.
The total utilization rate for the country rose to 92.7 percent although it fell almost 5 percentage points to 80.9 percent on the East Coast.
"There's strong demand here from the refining sector and the annual destocking is giving the market some support. The demand numbers were supportive yet again from the products side, so it's definitely bullish support for the market," said John Kilduff, a partner at Again Capital LLC in New York.
Demand for gasoline over the past four weeks was almost 4 percent higher than a year ago, at 8.85 million barrels per day (bpd), while for distillates it was 1 percent higher at 3.78 million bpd.
Exports of refined products inched higher last week, rising almost 200,000 bpd to 3.6 million bpd. Distillate exports slipped 55,000 bpd to 1.3 million bpd. EIA weekly export data is updated only once a month, so last week's data issued on Friday compares to figures for the previous four weeks.
U.S. oil benchmark rose immediately after the data was issued and by 12:35 p.m. EDT (1630 GMT) was trading at $100.62 a barrel, 1.07 percent higher. The futures had popped above the $100 mark before the data.
Distillates stocks fell 1.85 million barrels, compared with the 400,000 barrel drawdown expected by analysts polled by Reuters. Ultra-low sulfur diesel futures extended gains also and were trading at $3.1385 a gallon, 1.46 percent higher.
(Reporting by Sabina Zawadzki, Selam Gebrekidan, Anna Louie Sussman and Jeanine Prezioso in New York; Editing by Kenneth Barry and Meredith Mazzilli)