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Oil prices steady under USD 65 a barrel ahead of US petroleum stocks data

Oil prices were little changed Wednesday ahead of the release of a weekly U.S. petroleum supply snapshot expected to show that domestic gasoline stocks rose.

Light, sweet crude for June delivery rose just 6 cents in Asian electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange by midmorning in Singapore. The contract on Tuesday fell US$1.31 to settle at US$64.58 a barrel.

Traders are also anticipating the U.S. Department of Energy supply report to show that crude oil inventories fell by 1.2 million barrels on average last week, according to a Dow Jones Newswires survey of analyst estimates.

Gasoline stockpiles will likely increase by about 200,000 barrels and distillate stockpiles, which include heating oil and diesel fuel, are seen growing by 400,000 barrels, the survey showed.

Nymex crude oil rose US$1.78 to US$65.89 a barrel on Monday on fears that escalating violence after a presidential election in Nigeria - Africa's largest producer and a main oil supplier to the United States - could interrupt supplies.

The governing party candidate was declared the landslide winner of Nigeria's deeply flawed presidential elections Monday as the runner-up rejected the results, setting the stage for greater strife.

Rising violence since early 2006 in the unruly southern region where crude is pumped has cut Nigeria's daily production by about one quarter and sent global crude prices higher.

Heating oil futures rose by 0.15 cent to US$1.8475 a gallon (3.8 liters), while natural gas prices climbed 4.9 cents to US$7.647 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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