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Oil prices little changed ahead of key US crude and refined stockpile information

Oil prices were steady Wednesday ahead of the release of figures on U.S. stockpiles of crude and refined fuels that will be a key indicator of expected demand.

Benchmark U.S. crude for August delivery was down 5 cents at $103.35 a barrel at 0805 GMT in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 13 cents to close at $103.40 on Tuesday.

Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, was down 46 cents to $108.60 on the ICE exchange in London.

Energy Information Administration data for the week ending July 4 is expected to show declines of 3 million barrels in crude oil stocks and of 1 million barrels in gasoline stocks, according to a survey of analysts by Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill Cos.

Oil has been falling steadily, partly because worries about disruptions to the oil supply from Iraq have subsided. Oil hit a 10-month closing high of $107.26 on June 20.

Gauging demand in coming months from the world's two major economies, the U.S. and China, will be key for energy prices.

In other energy futures trading on Nymex:

— Wholesale gasoline was down 1.7 cents at $2.956 a gallon.

— Natural gas was little changed at $4.207 per 1,000 cubic feet.

— Heating oil fell 0.7 cent to $2.867 a gallon.

(TSX:ECA), (TSX:IMO), (TSX:SU), (TSX:HSE), (NYSE:BP), (NYSE:COP), (NYSE:XOM), (NYSE:CVX), (TSX:CNQ), (TSX:TLM), (TSX:COS), (TSX:CVE)

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