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Oil prices steady ahead of US stockpiles data

Oil prices were steady Wednesday ahead of the release of figures on U.S. stockpiles of crude and refined fuels that will be a key indicator of expected demand.

Benchmark U.S. crude for August delivery was down 5 cents at US$103.35 a barrel at 0805 GMT in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 13 cents to close at US$103.40 on Tuesday.

Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, was down 46 cents to US$108.60 on the ICE exchange in London.

Energy Information Administration data for the week ending July 4 is expected to show declines of 3 million barrels in crude oil stocks and of 1 million barrels in gasoline stocks, according to a survey of analysts by Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill Cos.

Oil has been falling steadily, partly because worries about disruptions to the oil supply from Iraq have subsided. Oil hit a 10-month closing high of US$107.26 on June 20.

Gauging demand in coming months from the world's two major economies, the U.S. and China, will be key for energy prices.

In other energy futures trading on Nymex:

- Wholesale gasoline was down 1.7 cents at US$2.956 a gallon.

- Natural gas was little changed at US$4.207 per 1,000 cubic feet.

- Heating oil fell 0.7 cent to US$2.867 a gallon.

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