Oil rose more than $2 to above $37 on Thursday after United States government crude inventory data showed an unexpected fall in U.S. crude stocks.

Data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) showed U.S. weekly crude stockpiles were off 200,000 barrels at 350.6 million barrels, against a forecast rise of 3 million barrels.

A day ahead of expiry, U.S. crude futures for March delivery rose $2.68 cents to $37.30 a barrel by 11:16 a.m. EST. April delivery contracts rose $1.85 cents to $39.26.

London Brent for April delivery rose $1.88 cents to $41.43.

Crude stocks made a surprise fall here as imports were down and refinery activity was up. We'll have to see if the import decline is the start of a trend as OPEC is really doing a lot to carry out output cuts, said Amanda Kurzendoerfer, commodity analyst at Summit Energy.

Oil stocks in the U.S. have risen by 20 percent since September as the downturn has crushed consumption, and helped pull crude prices more than $110 off their last summer peaks.

(Editing by Peter Blackburn)