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Crude oil futures rise despite US stock build, focus on trade talks

Singapore — Crude oil futures were higher during mid-morning trade in Asia Friday, despite a larger-than-expected build in latest US crude stocks data, as markets focused more on recent developments in the US-China trade talks.

At 10:25 am Singapore time (0225 GMT), ICE January Brent crude futures were up 29 cents/b (0.47%) from Thursday's settle at $62.57/b, while the NYMEX December light sweet crude contract rose 29 cents/b (0.51%) to $57.06/b.

China was insisting the US remove tariffs as talks on an interim trade deal progress between the two countries, according to media reports quoting the Chinese Ministry of Commerce Thursday.

"China is willing to work together with the US, resolving each other's core concerns properly on the basis of equality and mutual respect and creating conditions for the phase one deal," Ministry spokesman Gao Feng was quoted as saying Thursday.

Analysts however said there was still some skepticism around the progress of talks, with some difficulties seen over issues relating to intellectual property protection, agricultural purchases and tariff rollbacks.

"Asian markets are likely to trade range today as investors adopt a wait-and-see position following increasing doubts over the US-China phase one progress," OCBC Bank analysts said in a note Friday.

Prices also found some support in a bullish report on US oil rig data, with the total number of US rigs drilling for oil and gas falling by seven from the week before to 869, data released Thursday by Enverus showed.

"The EIA [US Energy Information Administration] publishes its November Drilling productivity report next week [November 18]. The report will provide the market with excellent growth assumptions in the short term," said Stephen Innes, APAC market strategist at AxiTrader, in a note Friday.

Upward price action was however capped by a bearish report on US crude inventory, with US stocks rising 2.22 million barrels to 449 million barrels in the week ended November 8, EIA data released late Thursday showed.

Analysts polled by S&P Global Platts had been expecting a smaller 1 million-barrel build.

As of 0225 GMT, the US Dollar Index was down 0.01% at 98.02

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

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