US oil closes higher, supported by data ahead of stockpiles


Brent crude futures fell and U.S. crude was near flat in choppy trade on Tuesday as economic data from the United States and China provided support to prices, recently under pressure because of increasing global oil production.

Recent weakness in Europe's physical oil market, where differentials narrowed to two-year lows last week, has weighed on Brent prices even as turmoil in Ukraine and supply disruption in Libya fuels the geopolitical risk premium for oil. European oil refiners are cutting operating rates by nearly one quarter ahead of the peak summer period.

Brent crude for July were down 20 cents near $108 a barrel. U.S. crude settled up 19 cents at $102.66 a barrel.

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New orders for U.S. factory goods rose for a third straight month in April and data released earlier on Tuesday pointed to China's factory sector having its best performance in four months during May, lending to support for crude oil prices.

Ukraine's crisis with neighboring Russia, one of the world's top oil producers, is still a concern for oil market participants, along with turmoil in OPEC-member Libya, where the eastern port of Hariga remained closed by protesting security guards awaiting payment of salaries.

The American Petroleum Institute will release its data on Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. Eastern, followed by the U.S. Energy Information Administration's data on Wednesday.

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