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NYMEX-U.S. crude firms to around $97.50, boosted by inventory data

Wednesday, 5 Feb 2014 | 7:42 PM ET

SEOUL, Feb 6 (Reuters) - U.S. crude oil futures rose in early Asian trade on Thursday, supported by data showing a smaller-than-expected build in U.S. crude inventories and a draw at a key delivery point in the world's largest economy.

FUNDAMENTALS

* U.S. crude gained 11 cents at $97.49 a barrel as of 0011 GMT after settling 19 cents up at $97.38.

* Brent crude ended 47 cents up at $106.25 per barrel.

* U.S. stocks of distillates fell 2.4 million barrels last week, more than expected, and inventories of the fuels on the East Coast fell to their lowest level since April 2003, due to a continued cold spell, data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) showed on Wednesday.

EIA data also showed a smaller-than-expected build of crude oil of 440,000 barrels. At Cushing, crude stocks fell 1.6 million barrels to 40.3 million barrels, reflecting the start-up last month of TransCanada Corp's 700,000 barrel-per-day Gulf Coast pipeline, which had been expected to ease a glut at the Oklahoma storage hub.

* The latest in a series of winter storms hit the United States on Wednesday, dropping wet, heavy snow in the Northeast states that disrupted travel and threatened supplies of salt needed to keep roads clear.

* Oil markets were also supported by a growth pickup in the U.S. services sector in January with steady strength in private-sector hiring which suggested the winter weather that socked the country over the last several weeks and had a limited effect on the economy.

* On the geopolitical front, Syria on Wednesday missed a deadline to hand over all the toxic materials it declared to the world's chemical weapons watchdog, putting the programme several weeks behind schedule and jeopardizing a final June 30 deadline.

MARKETS NEWS

* World stock markets mostly edged higher on Wednesday after recent losses as economic data gave a mixed picture on global growth and the yen neared two-month highs.

The dollar edged down against the euro as traders awaited the outcome of Thursday's European Central Bank policy meeting and whether policymakers would consider further stimulus to help a still fragile euro zone economy. The euro was up slightly at $1.3534.

Spot gold was well off the day's highs after the mixed U.S. data left investors uncertain over the pace of the U.S. recovery.

DATA/EVENTS

* The following data is expected on Thursday: (Time in GMT)

1100 Germany Industrial orders

1200 Bank of England rate decision

1245 European Central Bank rate decision

1330 U.S. International trade

1330 U.S. Weekly jobless claims

(Reporting by Meeyoung Cho; Editing by Ed Davies)