NYMEX-Crude steady near $88 after 3 days of gains
TOKYO, Dec 19 (Reuters) - U.S. crude futures were steady near $88 a barrel on Wednesday, holding gains made over the past three days, supported by optimism that a deal could be struck to avert a U.S. budget crisis and keep the world's top oil consumer from slipping into recession.
* NYMEX crude for January delivery, which expires at the end of trading on Wednesday, was unchanged at $87.93 a barrel by 2303 GMT, after settling up 73 cents on Tuesday. The contract has risen about 2.4 percent in the past three days, amid growing hopes that a deal will be struck between President Barack Obama and House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner to prevent the economy from going over the "fiscal cliff". Both sides have made compromises in recent days and the White House remained confident of an agreement.
* London Brent crude for February delivery settled up $1.20 at $108.84 on Tuesday.
* U.S. crude stocks fell 4.1 million barrels last week, a steeper fall than 1.1 million barrels forecast in a Reuters poll, the American Petroleum Institute's (API) weekly report showed after Tuesday's settlement. Gasoline stockpiles jumped 4.2 million barrels, while distillate stockpiles fell 1.9 million barrels, the API said. Gasoline stocks were expected to be up 1.8 million, while distillate stocks were seen up 1.0 million barrels.
* As Brent crude prices headed towards the end of the year close to levels where they started 2012, Ali al-Naimi, Saudi Arabia's oil minister, said the market was well balanced with prices above $100 a barrel. The world's largest exporter has tried to achieve that price level by adjusting production over the last two years.
* Motiva Enterprises' new 325,000-barrel-per-day (bpd) crude distillation unit at its Port Arthur, Texas, refinery will likely not be repaired before Friday or Saturday, sources familiar with operations said on Tuesday. The news of the halted production on the units had led gasoline and heating oil futures higher on Tuesday.
* U.S. stocks rallied on strong volume on Tuesday, capping off the S&P 500's best two-day run in a month on progress on budget talks.
* The euro rose against the dollar for a seventh straight session on Tuesday, hitting its highest level in more than seven months, as signs of progress in U.S. budget negotiations buoyed demand for riskier assets.
* The following data is expected on Wednesday: (Time in GMT)
- 0900 Germany Ifo business climate Dec - 0900 Germany Ifo current conditions Dec - 0900 Germany Ifo expectations Dec - 1330 U.S. Build permits: change mm Nov - 1330 U.S. House starts mm: change Nov - 1330 U.S. Housing starts number mm Nov - 1530 U.S. EIA petroleum status report Weekly
(Reporting by Osamu Tsukimori; Editing by Chris Gallagher)