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By Stephanie Kelly

(Reuters) – Oil prices were near flat on Thursday, as a larger-than-expected draw in U.S. crude stocks contended with worries that more aggressive U.S. interest rate rises would strain economic growth and therefore dent oil consumption.

Brent crude futures had edged higher by 5 cents to $82.71 per barrel by 0103 GMT, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures gained 5 cents to $76.71 a barrel.

On Tuesday, oil futures fell more than 3% and posted their largest daily fall since early January after comments by U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell that the central bank would likely need to raise interest rates more than expected in response to recent strong data.

U.S. crude stocks fell 1.7 million barrels last week, government data showed, compared with analyst estimates for a build of 395,000. Industry data late Tuesday showed a decline in crude inventories for the first time after a 10-week build.

U.S. gasoline stocks drew down by 1.1 million barrels, according to official data, less than the 1.8 million forecast, adding to demand concerns. Distillate inventory grew by 138,000 barrels, compared with expectations for a 1-million-barrel drawdown.

Oil ministers and executives continued to debate supply tightness at a conference in Houston on Wednesday, with Angola’s secretary of state for oil and gas saying there was no need for the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to increase output to make up for Russia’s 500,000 barrel per day cut.


(Reporting by Stephanie Kelly; Editing by Bradley Perrett)


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