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Crude oil futures up on mixed US stocks data, geopolitical tensions

Singapore — Crude oil futures were stable to marginally higher during mid-morning trade in Asia Thursday, amid a mixed report on US inventory data and ongoing geopolitical tensions.

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At 10:20 am Singapore time (0220 GMT), front-month ICE Brent September futures rose 18 cents/b (0.28%) from Wednesday's settle at $63.84/b, while the NYMEX August light sweet crude futures contract was 4 cents/b (0.07%) higher at $56.82/b.

According to data released by the US Energy information Administration on Wednesday, US crude inventory for the week ended July 12 fell 3.11 million barrels to 455.88 million barrels.

Analysts surveyed Monday by S&P Global Platts were looking for a bigger draw of 4.2 million barrels for the same period.

"While the oil inventories numbers were largely supportive, a surprise buildup in distillate and gasoline stockpiles started weighing on oil prices following the release of the report," said ANZ analysts in a note.

US gasoline inventories were up 3.57 million barrels last week to 32.75 million barrels, putting stocks more than 2% above the five-year average, while distillate stocks surged 5.69 million barrels to 136.2 million barrels, the highest since early March, according to EIA data.

Meanwhile, prices were also reacting to ongoing geopolitical tensions in the Middle East, said analysts.

"Middle East tension and the US and Iran talks on the nuclear deal are still adding uncertainty to the market," said ANZ analysts.

Iran said Wednesday that a small oil products tanker missing in the Strait of Hormuz was in its territorial waters, stoking fraught relations with Iran's neighbors and the West over threats to shipping in the key oil chokepoint.

This came at a time when the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said earlier this week that Iran was prepared to negotiate with the US over its missile program, according to media reports

US President Donald Trump underscored Pompeo's comments, saying progress has been made with Iran and that the US was not looking for a regime change in Tehran.

"Regardless, the mixed messages surrounding Iran are going to keep this market flip flopping," said Price Futures Group senior market analyst Phil Flynn.

As of 0220 GMT, the US Dollar Index was down 0.1% at 96.77.

--Avantika Ramesh, avantika.ramesh@spglobal.com

--Edited by Nurul Darni, nurul.indriani.darni@spglobal.com