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The New York Times: Oil Prices Nearly Flat in Asian Trading

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: July 5, 2007
Filed at 1:33 a.m. ET

SINGAPORE (AP) — Oil prices were little changed in Asian trading Thursday as market participants awaited the release of U.S. government fuel stocks data expected to show gasoline supplies rose last week.

Light, sweet crude for August delivery gained 2 cents to $71.43 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, midmorning in Singapore, up from Tuesday’s settlement at $71.41.

The market was closed to floor trading Wednesday in the United States for Independence Day.

Trading was sluggish due to the holiday and as the market awaits the weekly fuel inventory report by the U.S. Energy Department’s Energy Information Administration later Thursday for a clearer price direction, analysts said.

”Traders are going to take a break in Asian hours (due to the lack of liquidity). They are focusing on EIA oil data due later today,” said broker Ken Hasegawa of Fimat Japan.

This week’s U.S. petroleum supply snapshot has been delayed until Thursday because of the U.S. holiday. Analysts surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires expected gasoline inventories to have increased last week an average of 700,000 barrels.

Refinery utilization is expected to have risen 1.1 percentage points to 90.5 percent, building on the previous week’s gain. The increase in refinery runs is expected to have tapped into crude inventories, which were near 9-year highs.

Analysts, on average, expect crude inventories to have fallen by 500,000 barrels in the week ended June 29. Distillate inventories, which include heating oil and diesel fuel, are expected to have declined by 200,000 barrels.

Gunmen in Nigeria Wednesday attacked an oil rig in the country’s restive southern oil heartland and seized five expatriate workers.

The attack was on a drilling rig on one of the countless islands in the vast delta region where Africa’s biggest oil producer pumps its crude, an official said. An Australian, two New Zealanders, one Lebanese and one Venezuelan were taken, he said.

Royal Dutch Shell said it owned the rig, but that there were no production cuts reported.

August Brent crude rose 3 cents to $73.08 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

Nymex heating oil futures dropped 0.24 cent to $2.075 a gallon, while natural gas prices edged down slightly to $6.659 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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