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Oil slightly lower ahead of US stockpiles report

AP--The price of oil was down slightly Wednesday as energy markets waited for the latest figures on U.S. crude and fuel stockpiles.

Benchmark U.S. crude for April delivery was down 20 cents at US$99.50 a barrel at 0605 GMT in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract gained US$1.62 to US$99.70 on Tuesday after strong U.S. factory data and an apparent easing in tensions over Ukraine.

Thursday is the last day of trading for the April contract.

Investors are awaiting fresh information on U.S. stockpiles of crude and refined products, which give a weekly indication about the strength of demand in the world's biggest economy.

Statistics for the week ended March 14 are expected to show a rise of 2.6 million barrels in crude oil stocks and a decline of 1.6 million barrels in gasoline stocks, according to a survey of analysts by Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill Cos.

Brent crude, used to set prices for international varieties of crude, fell 2 cents to US$106.77 a barrel on the ICE exchange in London.

In other energy futures trading on Nymex:

— Wholesale gasoline fell 0.5 cent to US$2.89 a gallon.

— Heating oil gained 0.4 cent to US$2.901 a gallon.

— Natural gas shed 0.7 cent to US$4.449 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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