June 18 (Reuters) - U.S. ethanol production increased for the sixth week in a row to a record high, government data showed on Wednesday, as rising gasoline prices helped boost demand for the grain-based biofuel.
Ethanol production surged 28,000 barrels per day, or about 3 percent, to an average of 972,000 bpd in the week ending June 13, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Production surpassed the previous record of 963,000 bpd reached in the last week of 2011.
Despite the higher output, strong demand squeezed stocks of ethanol, which fell 572,000 barrels to 17.85 million barrels, a three-week low.
Makers of the biofuel are earning near-record profits as prices for corn, the main feedstock used in ethanol production, hovered near a four-month low. Meanwhile, gasoline futures have maintained roughly a $1-per-gallon premium over ethanol futures throughout June, making ethanol attractive for fuel blenders during the early days of the summer driving season.
(Reporting by Michael Hirtzer in Chicago; Editing by David Gregorio)