UPDATE 9-Oil prices steady after smaller-than-expected U.S. crude build


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      Smaller-than-expected build in U.S. crude stocks  

      Broader markets weighed by economic slowdown concerns

      U.S. business activity contracts in January

      OPEC+ unlikely to tweak oil policy at Feb. 1 meeting

 (Updates with settlement prices)
    By Shariq Khan
       BENGALURU, Jan 25 (Reuters) - Oil prices settled largely
unchanged on Wednesday after government data showed a
smaller-than-anticipated build in U.S. crude inventories,
countering weak economic data from Tuesday.
    Brent crude futures  LCOc1  settled at $86.12 a barrel, down
a cent, while the U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude
futures  CLc1  settled at $80.15 a barrel, up by 2 cents.
    The Brent benchmark had dropped 2.3% and WTI futures slipped
1.8% in Tuesday's session after data showed U.S. business
activity contracted in January for the seventh straight month,
raising concerns about an economic slowdown.
    "End of the day here, the market is starting to get a little
more anxious about the economy and things along those lines,"
Mizuho analyst Robert Yawger said. "Main worry at this point is
demand destruction due to an economic slowdown."
    WTI prices briefly rose by over $1 per barrel on Wednesday
after the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said that U.S.
crude inventories rose by 533,000 barrels in the last week to
448.5 million barrels. Analysts polled by Reuters were expecting
a 1 million-barrel rise.  EIA/S 
    "The market is taking the report as somewhat supportive,"
said Phil Flynn, analyst at Price Futures Group.
    "If we look at crude, the increase in stocks was much
smaller than anticipated, and that is raising concerns about
tightness in supply. There is no backup supply, like we normally
do, as the Strategic Petroleum Reserve is heavily drawn."
    Crude prices have rallied in 2023, with global benchmark
Brent crude topping $89 a barrel this week for the first time
since early December on the ending of China's COVID-19 controls
and hopes that rises in U.S. interest rates will soon taper off.
    Elsewhere on the supply side, volume should remain steady as
the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and
its allies, a group known as OPEC+, are likely to endorse the
group's current output levels at a Feb. 1 meeting, OPEC+ sources
said on Tuesday.
 (Reporting by Shariq Khan; Additional reporting by Alex Lawler,
Yuka Obayashi and Muyu Xu; Editing by David Gregorio and Lisa
 ((Shariq.Khan@thomsonreuters.com; Twitter: @shariqrtrs;))

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