NYMEX-Crude steady as U.S. oil stockpiles fall, dollar weighs
SINGAPORE, July 18 (Reuters) - U.S. oil futures were steady at above $106 a barrel in early Asian trade on Thursday, supported by a drawdown in U.S. stockpiles while a recovery in the dollar dragged.
U.S. crude had climbed 1 cent to $106.49 a barrel by 0027 GMT, shifting between a high of $106.73 and a low of $106.38. Brent was unchanged at $108.61. The U.S. benchmark settled 48 cents higher on Wednesday and Brent closed up 47 cents.
- U.S. inventories of gasoline and distillates each increased by more than 3 million barrels last week as refineries processed more oil, but RBOB and heating oil futures were little changed as snags at East Coast refining plants worried traders.
- Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said on Wednesday the U.S. central bank still expects to start scaling back its massive bond purchase programme later this year, but he left open the option of changing that plan if the economic outlook shifted.
- U.S. housing starts and permits for future home construction unexpectedly fell in June, but the decline in activity was likely to be short-lived against the backdrop of bullish sentiment among home builders.
- Protesters occupying Libya's eastern port of Zueitina, halting oil exports but allowing maintenance work, will not leave until their demands for jobs are met, one of them said on Wednesday.
- Greece's shaky coalition government scraped through a vote on Wednesday on a bill to sack public sector workers as thousands chanting anti-austerity slogans protested outside parliament.
* MARKETS NEWS
- The dollar held on to modest overnight gains early in Asia on Thursday after a choppy session that saw investors first sell then buy back the currency in reaction to Bernanke's comments.
- U.S. stocks ended modestly higher on Wednesday.
* The following data is expected on Thursday:
- 0800 Euro zone Current account
- 1230 U.S. Weekly jobless claims
- 1400 U.S. Philly Fed business index
- 1400 U.S. Leading indicators
- 1430 Bernanke testifies before Senate Banking Committee
(Reporting by Manash Goswami; Editing by Joseph Radford)