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Oil prices mixed in Asia before US stockpiles data

Singapore:  Oil prices were mixed in Asia today ahead of the release of US stockpiles data, a closely watched barometer of demand in the world’s biggest consumer of the commodity, analysts said.

US benchmark West Texas Intermediate fell two cents to USD 47.49 and Brent was up three cents at USD 55.14 in late- morning trade.

Crude supplies in the US are expected to have risen in the week ending March 20, according to a survey by Bloomberg News.

Inventories have risen for the past 10 weeks in a row, putting further downward pressure on prices in the face of a global supply glut, with the OPEC oil cartel also maintaining elevated output levels.

The US Energy Information Administration will announce the data later today.

“Inventories remain crucial in judging the oversupply issue,” Daniel Ang, an investment analyst with Phillip Futures in Singapore, said in a market commentary.

Data showing an unexpectedly sharp manufacturing slowdown in China is also weighing on sentiment.

China’s manufacturing activity contracted in March at its fastest rate in 11 months, British banking giant HSBC said, suggesting worsening conditions in the world’s number two economy.

HSBC’s preliminary purchasing managers index dipped to 49.2 in March from 50.7 in February. A number below 50 indicates contraction, and anything above 50 points to growth.

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