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Oil little changed ahead of US stockpiles report

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The price of oil was becalmed Wednesday as the energy market waited for a weekly U.S. crude stockpiles report.

Benchmark U.S. crude for May delivery was up 1 cent to $99.20 a barrel at 0755 GMT in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 41 cents to $99.19 on Tuesday.

Prices might retreat if forecasts for a tenth consecutive increase in U.S. stockpiles of crude oil are confirmed in a report due later Wednesday.

Energy Information Administration data for the week ended March 21 are expected to show an increase of 2.6 million barrels in crude oil stocks and a decline of 1.8 million barrels in gasoline stocks, according to a survey of analysts by Platts.

Brent crude was up 15 cents at $107.15 a barrel on the ICE exchange in London.

U.S. and Brent crude have hovered in narrow ranges over the past week as supply and demand estimations have balanced each other out. Global supplies have tightened somewhat as Libyan crude exports have fallen, but the world may need less oil if economic growth in China and Russia slows.

A preliminary report Monday on China's manufacturing for March showed continued weakness in a vital part of the world's second largest economy. Russia is suffering an exodus of investment capital following its annexation of the Crimean Peninsula and its economy is likely to stumble.

In other energy futures trading on Nymex:

— Wholesale gasoline gained 1 cent to $2.891 a gallon.

— Heating oil added 0.4 cent to $2.925 a gallon.

— Natural gas fell 4 cents to $4.371 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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