MTECHTIPS- Oil prices rose to the highest levels of the session during North American morning hours on Wednesday, after data showed that U.S. crude supplies rose less than expected last week. The U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude April contract tacked on 36 cents, or around 0.7%, to $54.37 a barrel by 10:35 AM ET (15:35 GMT). Prices were at around $54.28 prior to the release of the inventory data. Elsewhere, Brent oil for May delivery on the ICE Futures Exchange in London added 45 cents to $56.96 a barrel. The U.S. Energy Information Administration said in its weekly report that crude oil inventories rose by 1.5 million barrels in the week ended February 24. Market analysts’ expected a crude-stock gain of 3.1 million barrels, while the American Petroleum Institute late Tuesday reported a supply increase of 2.5 million barrels. Supplies at Cushing, Oklahoma, the key delivery point for Nymex crude, increased by 495,000 barrels last week, the EIA said. Total U.S. crude oil inventories stood at an all-time high of 520.2 million barrels as of last week, which the EIA considered to be at the upper limit of the average range for this time of year. The report also showed that gasoline inventories declined by 546,000 barrels, compared to expectations for a drop 1.789 million barrels. For distillate inventories including diesel, the EIA reported a decline of 925,000 barrels. Futures have been trading in a narrow $5 range around the mid-$ 50 s over the past two months as sentiment in oil markets has been torn between swelling stockpiles and increased shale production in the U.S. and hopes that oversupply may be curbed by output cuts announced by major global producers.