* Saudi bullish stance, Mideast geopolitical tensions support
* U.S. crude inventories show surprise build - EIA
* U.S. crude exports hit new record four-week average - EIA
* Southeast Asia crude imports to more than double by 2040 - IEA (Adds latest prices, fresh quotes; changes byline, dateline from LONDON)
NEW YORK, Oct 26 (Reuters) - Oil prices were little changed after erasing earlier losses by midday on Thursday as Middle East tensions and Saudi comments about ending a global supply glut offset an unexpected increase in U.S. crude inventories and high U.S. production and exports.
Brent futures were up 13 cents, or 0.2 percent, at $58.57 a barrel by 12:45 p.m. EDT (1645 GMT), while U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude was up 15 cents, or 0.3 percent at $52.33 per barrel. Both benchmarks were down by less than 1 percent earlier Thursday.
Saudi Arabia's energy minister earlier this week reiterated the kingdom's determination to end a global supply glut that has weighed on prices for more than three years.
"Price volatility in the oil market is expected to persist in the run-up to the November OPEC meeting. Saudi Arabias bullish stance, together with ongoing geopolitical tensions in the Middle East, will remain supportive of prices," said Abhishek Kumar, Senior Energy Analyst at Interfax Energys Global Gas Analytics in London.
He was referring to the planned Nov. 30 meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
"However, the market is also mindful of rising oil production in the United States and persistently high exports from the country, which will cap price gains, Kumar noted.
U.S. crude inventories rose by 856,000 barrels last week, U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) data showed on Wednesday, versus analysts' forecast for a 2.6 million-barrel draw.
The data also showed that U.S. crude production rose 1.1 million barrels per day (bpd) last week to 9.5 million bpd after a decline due to Hurricane Nate, while U.S. oil exports hit a new record four-week average of 1.7 million bpd.
"We continue to highlight a near record level of crude exports that appears sustainable near 2 (million bpd) through next month due to a widening Brent-WTI spread that pushed above $6 per barrel resistance in yesterdays trade," Jim Ritterbusch, president of Chicago-based energy advisory firm Ritterbusch & Associates, said in a note.
Brent's premium over WTI <WTCLc1-LCOc1> was up 1.5 percent on Thursday at $6.35 amidst renewed strength in the global benchmark. Ritterbusch said he expects December Brent to make a run at $59 by the end of the week.
But higher U.S. supply has been balanced by worries over crude exports from the Middle East.
Crude shipments to Turkey from northern Iraq, the second-largest producer in OPEC, have declined after Iraqi government forces took back the city of Kirkuk last week after a Kurdish referendum on independence.
Meanwhile, global oil demand keeps rising.
Southeast Asia's net crude oil imports will more than double to 5.5 million bpd by 2040 as the region adds new refining capacity to meet rising demand while regional oil output falls, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).
(Additional reporting by Christopher Johnson in London and Osamu Tsukimori in Tokyo; Editing by Marguerita Choy and Adrian Croft)