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Inventories of US crude declined for the first time this year as imports slowed, data release on Wednesday showed, prompting oil prices to modestly extend their gains.

Stocks of US crude unexpectedly fell by 237,000 barrels, against economists expectations of a build of 3.2m barrels, the Energy Information Administration said. Oil imports averaged 7.4m bpd last week, down by 745,000 bpd from the previous week.

However the report also showed that stocks at Cushing Oklahoma, a key delivery hub, rose by 2.1m barrels, more than that 549,000 barrel build economists had forecast.

At 528.2m barrels, US crude oil inventories are above the upper limit of the average range for this time of year.

Stocks of gasoline, one of the products crude is refined into, fell by 3.1m barrels, wider than the 1.7m barrel draw that had been forecast.

Ahead of the release, West Texas Intermediate, the US crude marker, was up 2.1 per cent to $48.70 a barrel, while its international counterpart, Brent was up 1.9 per cent to $51.91 a barrel.

Oil prices had been battered in recent days as supply concerns and questions about Saudi Arabia’s commitment to the output cut deal weighed on the commodity. But the kingdom’s energy ministry issued a statement asserting its commitment to “stabilising the global oil market” on Tuesday helping improve sentiment.

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