. — U.S. crude stockpiles fell much more than expected last week, the API reported Wednesday, pointing to signs of pick up in energy demand as the summer driving season is underway. 
, the U.S. benchmark, traded at $79.27 a barrel following the report after settling down 0.8% at $79.23 a barrel.
fell by about 6.5 million barrels for the week ended May. 22, compared with a build of 2.5M barrels reported by the API for the previous week. Economists were expecting a decrease of 1.9M barrels. 
The inventory data pointed to the pick in demand from the start of the U.S. summer season, which usually marks at least two months of elevated demand in the world’s biggest fuel consumer. 
The API data also showed that gasoline stockpiles decreased by 452,000 barrels, while distillate inventories increased by 2.0M barrels. 
The report is due Thursday, a day later than usual due to the Memorial Day holiday.