By Cheang Chee Yew
Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES
SINGAPORE (Dow Jones)--Crude-oil futures rose in Asia Thursday after a forecast of lower U.S. oil inventories, with markets appearing to have shrugged off the effects of the International Energy Agency's release of 60 million barrels of crude and oil products.
On the New York Mercantile Exchange, light, sweet crude futures for delivery in August traded at $97.41 a barrel at 0703 GMT, up $0.76 in the Globex electronic session. August Brent crude on London's ICE Futures exchange rose $0.65 to $114.27 a barrel.
"The market is firmer after the American Petroleum Institute reported lower U.S. stockpiles...and we expect the Department of Energy's data to show a fall [in oil inventories]," said Tokyo-based Newedge Japan trader Yusuke Seta.
The API, an industry group, reported Wednesday that U.S. reserves of crude, gasoline and distillates--including heating oil and diesel--fell 3.2 million barrels, 1.9 million barrels and 1.6 million barrels, respectively, for the week to July 1.
The DOE is expected to report that U.S. crude stockpiles fall by 2.4 million barrels during the same period, while gasoline may rise by 200,000 barrels and distillates by 900,000 barrels, according to a Dow Jones Newswires survey.
Following IEA's June 23 announcement that it would release the extra oil to markets, U.S. crude futures fell to a low of $89.61 a barrel on June 27, but the downward pressure on prices from the one-time boost to supply may be fading.
"The crude market is rebounding...it has fallen too fast after IEA said it will release the oil stockpiles," Seta said.
Meanwhile, crude futures are riding a short-term uptrend, with prices potentially reaching $102.50 a barrel in the next few days, said analyst Tom Pawlicki at MF Global.
"The market may be supported by the [quick recovery after] adverse events [Wednesday]," he said in a note, referring to China's interest rate hike and Moody's downgrade of Portugal's debt rating, which he said had quickly been priced in.
The IEA could put more downward pressure on crude prices if it should decide to release more oil reserves onto the global market, he said, putting support for Nymex at $93 a barrel.
Nymex reformulated gasoline blendstock for August--the benchmark gasoline contract--rose 215 points to $3.0191 a gallon, while August heating oil traded at $2.9846, 213 points higher.
ICE gasoil for July changed hands at $937.75 a metric ton, up $8.25 from Wednesday's settlement.