NEW YORK (

TheStreet

) -- Oil futures struggled Wednesday after the government's latest inventory figures revealed bleak fuel fundamentals.

On Wednesday, the Energy Information Administration said crude stockpiles fell by 2 million barrels last week. The drawdown was steeper than the expected 1.2 million-barrel fall anticipated by a group of analysts surveyed by Platts. But the government's tally fell short of the American Petroleum Institute's assessment released late Tuesday, which showed inventory levels falling by 3.4 million barrels.

Gasoline stockpile levels, on the other hand, rose by a disappointing 500,000 barrels, despite projections calling for a 400,000-barrel drawdown. And distillate fuel inventories jumped by 2.5 million barrels, far outpacing estimates calling for a 1.3 million barrel build.

The August delivery crude contract lost 31 cents, or 0.4%, to settle at $75.63 a barrel. Also on the Nymex, the August heating oil contract shed 4 cents, or 1.7%, to settle at $2.01 a gallon, while August gasoline lost nearly a penny, or 0.2%, to settle at $2.06 a gallon.

Earlier in the session, crude prices got a lift after a report assessing

factory activity in the Midwest continued suggesting expansion and came in as expected this month. The August contract hit a session high of $76.83, but also fell below the $75 market to trade as low as $74.39 a barrel.

Stocks weakened in the final hour of trading on Wednesday to finish down 1%. The Philadelphia Oil Service Sector index, however, rose 0.02%, while the NYSE Arca Oil index slipped 0.7% lower.

Exxon Mobil

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and

Chevron

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were among the Dow's weakest components, finishing down by 0.4% and 0.7%, respectively.

American depositary shares for

BP

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turned in an impressive performance among the basket of stocks in the NYSE Arca index, rising on recent buyout speculation and alongside ebbing fears about a hurricane system that could have complicated cleanup efforts to contain the firm's oil spill in the Gulf. The stock gained $1.21, or 4.4%, to $28.88.

August natural gas added 7 cents, or 1.5%, to settle at $4.62 per million British thermal units a day ahead of the EIA's supply report. According to a Platts survey, natural gas storage levels are expected to rise by 61 billion to 65 billion cubic feet.

--Written by Sung Moss and Melinda Peer in New York

.