Crude oil futures edge higher ahead of U.S. supply data

Shutterstock photo - Crude oil futures inched higher during European morning hours on Wednesday, holding below the previous session's two-week high as traders looked ahead to closely-watched weekly supply data on U.S. stockpiles of crude and refined products from the U.S. Energy Information Administration later in the day.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange, light sweet crude futures for delivery in April traded at USD92.73 a barrel during European morning trade, up 0.2% on the day.

New York-traded oil prices traded in a range between USD92.47 a barrel, the daily low and a session high of USD92.97 a barrel. Nymex oil prices rose to USD93.43 a barrel on Tuesday, the strongest level since February 25.

Oil traders looked ahead to data from the U.S. government on oil and fuel supplies later in the day to gauge the strength of demand from the world's largest oil consumer.

The report was expected to show that U.S. crude oil stockpiles increased by 2.4 million barrels last week, while gasoline inventories were forecast to fall by 1.2 million barrels.

After markets closed Tuesday, the American Petroleum Institute, an industry group, said that U.S. crude inventories unexpectedly fell by 1.4 million barrels last week, while gasoline stocks declined 3.1 million barrels.

Oil traders also looked ahead to the release of U.S. retail sales data for February later in the day, as investors looked for further signs the U.S. economic recovery is gaining momentum.

Last week, data showed that the U.S. economy added 236,000 jobs in February, beating expectations for a 160,000 increase, while the unemployment rate fell to a four-year low of 7.7%.

Meanwhile, in Europe, market players were awaiting the outcome of an auction of three-year and 15-year Italian government bonds, in an important test of investor appetite for the country's debt, as concerns over ongoing political uncertainty lingered following last month's inconclusive elections.

Despite recent gains, concerns over the global economic outlook remained after Chinese data released over the weekend showed consumer inflation accelerated sharply in February, while industrial production slowed to the lowest level since October 2009.

Fears over a possible economic impact from the U.S. sequestration spending cuts and last month's election deadlock in Italy also was likely to remain in focus.

Elsewhere, on the ICE Futures Exchange, Brent oil futures for May delivery declined 0.1% to trade at USD109.17 a barrel, with spread between the Brent and crude contracts standing at USD16.44 a barrel, the lowest gap since late-January.

Brent futures came under pressure after a pipeline system used to transport North Sea oil resumed operation following a five-day halt last Thursday.

The likelihood of a resumption in exports from South Sudan further weighed on prices. The move could unlock at least 350,000 barrels-a-day of oil exports. - offers an extensive set of professional tools for the Forex, Commodities, Futures and the Stock Market including real-time data streaming, a comprehensive economic calendar, as well as financial news and technical & fundamental analysis by in-house experts.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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