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Crude oil futures rise further on US EIA stock data

Singapore — Crude oil futures edged up further during mid-morning trade in Asia Thursday,holding on to support from a surprise draw reported in US crude inventories.

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At 10:35 am Singapore time (0235 GMT), ICE June Brent crude futures were up 23cents/b (0.31%) from Wednesday's settle at $73.71/b, while the NYMEX May lightsweet crude contract was up 24 cents/b (0.35%) at $68.71/b.

According to data released by the US Energy Information AdministrationWednesday, US crude inventories fell 1.071 million barrels to 427.567 millionbarrels for the week ended April 13.

Analysts surveyed Monday by S&P Global Platts were looking for US crude stocksto have risen by 625,000 barrels for the same period.

"Oil prices were seen rising on news of declining inventories," ANZ analystssaid in a note Thursday.

A large decline in net crude imports drove stocks lower, offsetting anincrease in production and less refinery activity, analysts said.

Imports dropped 720,000 b/d last week to 7.93 million b/d, while exports rose544,000 b/d to 1.749 million b/d.

Draws reported in US gasoline and distillate inventories also helped inkeeping prices higher, analysts added.

For the week ended April 13, US gasoline inventories were down 2.968 millionbarrels to 235.967 million barrels, according to EIA data. Analysts werelooking for a draw of 1.6 million barrels.

Distillate stocks, on the other hand, fell 3.107 million barrels last week to125.34 million barrels, according to EIA data, while analysts had expected adecline of 1.9 million barrels.

"In a nutshell, the fall in inventories for the latest week suggest that USoil demand remains robust, a key aspect that is much needed to give crude oilprices a credible support at current levels," OCBC Commodity economistBarnabas Gan said.

But Gan also added that the recent rally in crude prices was fueled not justby strong fundamentals, but also by increased geopolitical tensions in theMiddle East.

"The rally could be short-lived and once the dust settles prices may reverseback some of their gains," he added.

Meanwhile, market participants will look out for the much awaited JointMinisterial Monitoring Committee meeting scheduled to be held on Friday atJeddah between the energy ministers of OPEC countries and Russia, withdiscussions likely to be centered around the possible extension of theOPEC-led cuts beyond 2018.

Russia earlier this week had commented that it was committed to its OPEC pactwith Saudi Arabia, providing positive sentiment to the market.

Investors, however, remain skeptical if OPEC and its allies would continue tolimit supply, given the latest report published by the International Agencywhich showed that OECD oil stocks fell by 25.6 million barrels to 2.84 billionbarrels in February -- the lowest since April 2015.

As of 0235 GMT, the US Dollar Index was up 0.05% at 89.41

--Avantika Ramesh,

--Edited by Geetha Narayanasamy,