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US crude inventories climbed less than analysts predicted last week, while gasoline stocks narrowed sharply, sending oil prices further into the black on Wednesday.

Oil inventories increased by 867,000 barrels last week, compared with expectations of a 1m-barrel build. Overall inventories, however, still remain at a record high.

Meanwhile, stocks of gasoline, a product into which crude is refined, plummeted 3.7m barrels, compared with forecasts for a 1.9m-barrel draw.

West Texas Intermediate, the US marker, extended its gains following the release of the data from the energy department. It recently climbed 1.5 per cent to $49.07 a barrel. Brent, the global benchmark, was up by the same margin to $52.15 a barrel.

Oil has sold off this month as worries mounted about US drillers ramping up production, potentially offsetting the agreed-to cut by members of Opec and other major exporters.

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