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NYMEX-Oil hovers near 4-mth high ahead of US, China data

SINGAPORE, Feb 20 (Reuters) - U.S. crude traded near a four-month high at above $103 a barrel on Thursday ahead of data from the United States and China that may give cues for fuel demand in the world's two largest oil consumers.

Government data to be released later in the day could show another drawdown in crude stockpiles at West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude's delivery point in Cushing, Oklahoma, as a new pipeline diverts supply to the gulf coast. Distillates inventories are also expected to fall on robust heating demand this winter.

Investors will also be looking out for the preliminary China Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) from HSBC/Markit for February. More evidence of slower growth in the world's No. 2 economy may pressure commodities.

FUNDAMENTALS

* U.S. crude futures for March delivery nudged up 8 cents to $103.39 a barrel by 0028 GMT. The contract closed on Wednesday, a day ahead of its expiry, at its highest since Oct. 8.

* Brent crude settled at the highest level this year at $110.47 a barrel after edging up 1 cent on Wednesday. April Brent's premium to WTI <CL-LCO1=R> has fallen to the lowest since October at around $7.60 a barrel.

* U.S. crude stocks fell last week as imports dropped, while gasoline inventories increased and distillate stocks fell, data from industry group the American Petroleum Institute showed.

* Crude inventories fell by 473,000 barrels in the week to Feb. 14 to 362.5 million, compared with analysts' expectations for an increase of 2 million barrels. Crude stocks at the Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery hub fell by 1.8 million barrels, API said.

* Six world powers and Iran appeared to make some progress at a second day of talks in Vienna on Wednesday to hammer out an agenda for reaching an ambitious final settlement to the decade-old standoff over Tehran's nuclear programme.

* Iraqi Kurdistan has agreed to export crude via the country's main oil marketing body, Deputy Prime Minister for energy Hussain al-Shahristani said, potentially removing a major sticking point in a resource row with the central government.

MARKETS NEWS

* Asian stocks languished in early trade on Thursday and the dollar firmed, after minutes of the Federal Reserve's latest policy meeting showed it remained on track to taper its stimulus despite a recent spate of downbeat U.S. economic data.

DATA/EVENTS

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

0145 China HSBC Manufacturing Flash PMI

0700 Germany Producer prices

0758 France Markit Manufacturing Flash PMI

0828 Germany Markit Manufacturing Flash PMI

0858 Euro zone Markit Manufacturing Flash PMI

1330 U.S. CPI

1330 U.S. Weekly jobless claims

1358 U.S. Markit Manufacturing Flash PMI

1500 U.S. Philly Fed business index

1500 Euro zone Consumer confidence

1600 U.S. EIA weekly crude stocks

1600 U.S. EIA weekly dist. stocks

1600 U.S. EIA weekly gasoline stk

(Reporting by Florence Tan; Editing by Richard Pullin)