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Oil steady above US$98 ahead of expected decline in US stockpiles

AP--The price of oil was steady above US$98 a barrel Wednesday ahead of a report on U.S. crude stockpiles.

Benchmark crude for January delivery was down 5 cents to US$98.46 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract jumped US$1.17 to US$98.51 on Tuesday, its highest level in six weeks, on optimism that the U.S. Energy Department's report Wednesday would show supplies fell for the second week in a row.

Data for the week ending Dec. 6 is expected to show a draw of 2.8 million barrels in crude oil stocks and a draw of 2.1 million barrels in gasoline stocks, according to a survey of analysts by Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill Cos.

Oil has fallen from US$110 in September on high supplies, muted demand and a lessening of Middle East tensions. It sank to nearly US$92 late last month but has since crept higher as the U.S. and Chinese economies show signs of sustained recovery.

Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, was up 3 cents to US$109.41 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

In other energy futures trading on Nymex:

— Wholesale gasoline was down 1.1 cent to US$2.672 a gallon.

— Heating oil was flat at US$3.017 a gallon

— Natural gas rose 1.2 cents to US$4.249 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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