Oil above $93 on expectations of stockpile fall

KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - Oil prices edged up Wednesday amid expectations U.S. crude stockpiles fell last week for the first time in nearly two months in a possible sign of improving demand.

Benchmark U.S. crude for December delivery was up 14 cents to $93.48 a barrel at midafternoon Kuala Lumpur time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 31 cents to $93.34 on Tuesday.

Investors are awaiting data on U.S. retail sales and weekly stockpiles of crude oil and refined products that will shed light on the strength of the economy.

Stockpile figures for the week ending Nov. 15 are expected to show declines of 500,000 barrels in crude oil stocks and 150,000 barrels in gasoline stocks, according to a survey of analysts by Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill Cos.

If confirmed, the fall in crude oil supplies would be the first in nearly two months and indicate a pick-up in demand.

Oil has traded between $93 and $96 a barrel this month and is down from nearly $110 a barrel in early October due to ample supplies and tepid demand.

There are, however, some jitters over the resumption of six power talks with Iran in Geneva later Wednesday.

The U.S., Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany are offering a gradual rollback of sanctions that have crippled Iran's economy, raising the possibility of an influx of Iranian oil into world markets at a time of already abundant supplies.

President Barack Obama deflated some of that speculation after he rejected reports that Iran would receive $40 billion or $50 billion in sanctions relief, and said any concession will be limited. He said new sanctions would be applied if Iran refused to accept a deal or forsook its commitments under an agreement.

Brent crude for January delivery, the benchmark for an international variety of crude, was up 15 cents to $107.07 a barrel on the ICE futures exchange in London.

In other energy futures trading on Nymex:

- Wholesale gasoline was little changed at $2.62 gallon.

- Heating oil added 0.9 cent to $2.916 a gallon.

- Natural gas gained 1.1 cents to $3.567 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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