NYMEX-US crude near 3-week top above $97, eyes best week in seven

Thursday, 23 Jan 2014 | 8:16 PM ET

SINGAPORE, Jan 24 (Reuters) - U.S. crude futures hovered near three-week highs in early deals on Friday following a larger-than-forecast drop in U.S. distillate stocks, putting the contract on track for its biggest weekly gain since early December.


* U.S. crude for March delivery was off 7 cents at $97.25 a barrel by 0051 GMT. It rose to as high as $97.84 on Thursday, its loftiest since Jan. 2. For the week, West Texas Intermediate crude has gained about 3 percent.

* Brent crude has risen 1 percent for the week.

* A larger-than-expected draw in U.S. distillate stocks caused by sustained cold aided WTI on Thursday. EIA data showing a 3.21-million-barrel draw on distillate stocks drove U.S. ultra low-sulfur diesel futures, or heating oil, to their highest price this year. Analysts polled by Reuters had expected only a 900,000-barrel draw.

* Brent fell 69 cents overnight, weighed down by weak data from China that showed its manufacturing sector contracted for the first time in six months. Anxiety over the state of the Chinese economy also weighed on other commodities including copper as well as equities.

* Iran will have a new, attractive investment model for oil contracts by September, its president and oil minister told some of the world's top oil executives in Davos, part of its drive to win back Western business.

* Brazil's state-owned oil company, Petrobras, and its partners plan to abandon the major Bem-Te-Vi offshore oil prospect to concentrate investment on a larger discovery nearby, a source with direct knowledge of the decision told Reuters.


* Asian shares sagged on Friday, extending the previous day's weakness as disappointing Chinese manufacturing data raised concerns over the economy, and investors sought safety in gold and the yen.


* The following data is expected on Friday: (GMT)

0900 Italy Retail sales

1530 U.S. ECRI weekly index

(Reporting by Manolo Serapio Jr.; Editing by Richard Pullin)