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Oil prices mixed in Asia before US stockpiles data

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

US benchmark West Texas Intermediate fell 12 cents to $47.39 and Brent was up five cents at $55.16 in afternoon trade.

Crude supplies in the United States 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 Wednesday.

“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.

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

HSBCs 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. (AFP)