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Crude oil futures stable on US stocks data, North Sea strike talks

Singapore — Crude oil futures were stable to slightly lower in mid-morning trade in Asia Wednesday after the release of mildly bearish US inventory data and the suspension of strike action in the North Sea.

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At 10:10 am Singapore time (0210 GMT), ICE October Brent crude futures were down 5 cents/b (0.07%) from Tuesday's settle at $75.90/b, while the NYMEX October light sweet crude contract was unchanged at $68.53/b.

US crude stocks rose 38,000 barrels in the week ended August 24, according to analysts quoting a American Petroleum Institute report released Tuesday.

Analysts surveyed Monday by S&P Global Platts had been expecting a 1 million-barrels draw.

Data for US gasoline and distillate inventories was also mildly bearish at up 21,000 barrels and up 982,000 barrels respectively in the API data.

More definitive data on US inventory levels is due for release by the US Energy Information Administration later Wednesday.

"In the energy sector, with very little in the way of data, investors looked ahead to this week's EIA report," ANZ analysts said in a note.

In the UK, the Unite union said Tuesday it would suspend strike action planned for September 3 at the Total-operated Alwyn, Dunbar and Elgin-Franklin fields in the UK North Sea after the two sides agreed to new talks.

A series of 12- and 24-hour strikes that began on July 23 have hit oil and gas output at the sites, with gas production reduced by as much as 13 million cu m/d and oil output by 70,000 b/d during the industrial action over changed shift patterns.

Elsewhere, US sanctions on Iran continue to remain the focal point of investor sentiment, with China's Sinopec, the world's biggest oil buyer and refiner by capacity, saying earlier this week it will not halt purchases of US or Iranian crude barrels, despite geopolitical pressure, and will instead keep its options open for diversifying supply sources.

Sinopec's continued purchases of Iran and US crude grades could help ease concerns about trade flow disruptions, although its volumes could still drop significantly in response to market factors.

As of 0210 GMT, the US Dollar Index was up 0.06% at 94.695.

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

--Edited by Wendy Wells, wendy.wells@spglobal.com