- Nymex crude oil prices rose during Asian trading on Thursday after a rather neutral supply report disappointed those hoping for a bullish surprise, though the commodity remained in positive territory due to a solid U.S. service-sector barometer.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange, West Texas Intermediate crude for delivery in March traded at USD97.52 a barrel during Asian trading, up 0.20%.

On Wednesday the New York-traded oil futures hit a session low of USD97.24 a barrel and a high of USD97.50 a barrel to settle at USD97.32 a barrel.

Nymex oil futures were likely to find support at USD96.27 a barrel, Monday''s low, and resistance at USD98.58 a barrel, the high from Jan. 30.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration said in its weekly report that U.S. crude oil inventories rose by 440,000 barrels in the week ended Jan. 31, missing market expectations for an increase of 2.30 million barrels.

Total U.S. crude oil inventories stood at 358.1 million barrels as of last week.

The report also showed that total motor gasoline inventories increased by 505,000 barrels, compared to forecasts for a gain of 1.48 million barrels, while distillate stockpiles declined by 2.36 million barrels compared to market forecasts for a drop of 1.58 million.

The data softened oil prices as some were hoping for more bullish figures, through better-than-expected data out of the U.S. service sector kept prices in positive territory.

The Institute for Supply Management reported that its services purchasing managers’ index came in at 54.0 in January, up from 53.0 in December.

Analysts had expected the index to rise to 53.7, which drew applause in energy markets by painting a picture of a more robust U.S. economy, one that will demand more fuel and energy going forward.

The employment component of the index rose to its highest level since November 2010.

The data eased concerns over a possible slowdown in U.S. recovery after Monday’s ISM manufacturing index showed that activity slumped to a seven-month low in January, which was partially the product of rough winter weather.

Elsewhere, payroll processor ADP reported that private-sector non-farm payrolls rose by 175,000 in December, below expectations for an increase of 180,000, though investors concluded that a string of blizzards and bitter cold snaps may have prompted businesses to put off hiring early this year.

Friday’s official U.S. jobs report is expected to show that jobs growth rebounded in January after unseasonably cold weather in December kept gains down to 74,000.

Elsewhere, on the ICE Futures Exchange in London, Brent oil futures for March delivery were up 0.05% and trading at 106.22 a barrel, while the spread between the Brent and U.S. crude contracts stood at USD8.70 a barrel.

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