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WTI Near One-Week Low as Crude Stockpiles Gain; Brent Steady

March 26 (Bloomberg) -- West Texas Intermediate traded near the lowest price in a week after an industry report showed crude stockpiles climbed in the U.S., the world’s biggest consumer. Brent in London was steady amid persisting unrest in Libya.

Futures were little changed in New York after dropping yesterday for the first time in three days. Crude inventories rose by 6.28 million barrels last week, the American Petroleum Institute said. An Energy Information Administration report today will probably show supplies expanded by 2.5 million for a 10th week of gains, according to a Bloomberg News survey. The EIA is the Energy Department’s statistical arm.

“It depends on U.S. inventories this afternoon,” said Michael Hewson, a London-based market analyst at CMC Markets Plc, which which handles about $100 million a day in U.S. crude contracts. “A big build as consumption starts to drop could well cap the upside.”

WTI for May delivery was at $99.38 a barrel, up 19 cents, in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange at 11:21 a.m. London time. The contract fell 0.4 percent yesterday to $99.19, the lowest settlement since March 17. The volume of all futures traded was about 55 percent below the 100-day average. Prices are up 1 percent this year.

Brent for May settlement gained 16 cents to $107.15 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange. The European benchmark crude was at a premium of $7.76 to WTI.

Libyan Unrest

Rebels seeking self rule in eastern Libya said yesterday that they will only enter talks with the central government that might restore the nation’s oil output if Tripoli withdraws a threat to attack oil ports that they control. The central government’s parliament approved an extension of Prime Minister Abdullah Theni’s tenure for 15 days, the al-Nayaa television station reported.

In the U.S., crude supplies rose to 375.9 million barrels in the week ended March 14, the highest level since November, according to the EIA. Refinery units are typically shut for maintenance in late winter before restarting in the spring to meet summer demand for gasoline.

Gasoline supplies shrank by 2.84 million barrels in the week ended March 21, the API said yesterday. They are projected to decline by 1.5 million in the EIA report, according to the median of 11 analysts in the Bloomberg survey.

Distillate inventories, a category that includes heating oil and diesel, increased by 267,000 barrels, said the API. The EIA report may show a 1.38 million decline, the survey shows.

Stockpiles

“Oil stocks figures coming out of the U.S. will be the most important driver on the macro side,” said Thina Saltvedt, an analyst at Oslo-based Nordea Markets, who sees Brent averaging $106 a barrel in the second quarter.

The industry-funded API in Washington collects information on a voluntary basis from operators of refineries, bulk terminals and pipelines. The government requires that reports be filed with the EIA.

The Houston Ship Channel, home to 11 percent of U.S. refining capacity, is open to most voyages, Coast Guard Petty Officer Eric Coleman said yesterday. The waterway was closed on March 22 after a vessel collision led to a 4,000-barrel fuel oil spill.

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