NYMEX-Crude edges down towards $95 ahead of China data
TOKYO, Jan 18 (Reuters) - U.S. crude futures inched down towards $95 a barrel on Friday as investors took profits after the contract hit a four-month high the day before, with focus shifting to Chinese GDP data for more clues on the outlook for global oil demand.
* NYMEX crude for February delivery was down 31 cents at $95.18 a barrel by 0007 GMT, after settling up $1.25 at $95.49 on Thursday.
The contract rose to $96.04 on Thursday, the highest intraday price since $96.17 on Sept. 19, after data showed U.S. jobless claims fell to a five-year low and housing starts jumped to the highest level since June 2008.
* London Brent crude for March delivery had not yet traded, after settling up $1.42 at $111.10.
* Thirty hostages, including at least seven foreigners, and at least 11 Islamist militants were killed on Thursday when Algerian forces stormed a desert gas plant seized by Islamist militants, an Algerian security source said.
He told Reuters that among the dead hostages were eight Algerians, two Japanese, two Britons and one French national. The nationalities of the other dead were not clear.
* U.S. gasoline futures were steady after rising 1.7 percent on Thursday, after Venezuela's PDVSA oil company was forced to halt a major unit of the country's 645,000 barrel per day Amuay refinery after a recent fuel-line leak.
* The U.N. nuclear watchdog and Iran appear to have failed again in talks this week to finalise a deal to unblock an investigation into suspected atom bomb research in the Islamic state, a diplomatic source said on Thursday.
* China's GDP data, which is to be released at 0200 GMT, is expected to show the pace of China's economic growth improved to 7.8 percent in the fourth quarter, according to a Reuters poll, snapping seven straight quarters of slowing expansion.
* Stronger-than-expected data on U.S. housing starts and jobless claims lit a fire under stocks on Thursday, pushing the S&P 500 to a five-year high and its third day of gains.
* The yen languished at two-and-a-half year lows against the dollar on Friday following a dramatic selloff as markets positioned for the Bank of Japan to take bold policy action to tackle deflation.
* The following data is expected on Friday: (Time in GMT)
- 1455 U.S. Univ of Michigan sentiment preliminary Jan
- 1530 U.S. ECRI weekly
(Reporting by Osamu Tsukimori; Editing by Joseph Radford)