Crude oil prices dip slightly

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Oil prices headed higher on Thursday after reports out of the United States showed a drawdown in US crude stockpiles that analysts did not expect.

Meanwhile, Japan's oil demand decline is set to accelerate amid a shrinking population. China's Ministry of Commerce said it would levy 25 percent tariffs on imports of 106 US products including automobiles and aircraft.

Saudi Arabia announced that it would increase its official selling prices of May crude, and the move supported prices, said Phil Flynn, analyst at Price Futures Group in Chicago.

Brent crude futures fell $1.23 on the day to $66.89 a barrel by 0918 GMT, bringing losses for the week so far to almost 5 percent.

In New York, US light prices were down by $0.47 at $63.04 per barrel in mid-day trading.

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Oil prices had already been under pressure earlier in the day ahead of a possible rise in US inventories, as reported by the Energy Information Administration (EIA) later on Wednesday.

Prices are being affected by "a bullish oil-inventory report" from the United States, said Michael Poulsen, an analyst at Global Risk Management Ltd.

Yet fund managers hold more bets on a sustained rise in the price of Brent crude oil than at any time, data from the InterContinental Exchange shows.

Yuan-denominated oil futures on the Shanghai International Energy Exchange were little changed at 402.3 yuan a barrel after the September-delivery contract closed 3.4% lower on Tuesday.

"What's really the main worry is that the long/short ratio is so skewed, meaning who is going to be buying if there is a lot of selling pressure?"

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Distillate inventories saw a surprise build this week of 2.2 million barrels.

Global equities sank after China unveiled its charges, which match the scale of proposed USA tariffs announced earlier this week and ratchets up tension in a brewing trade war between the world's two largest economies.

"This afternoon, if we get strong surprise crude draw, that could help to mitigate what now seems to be shaping up as a down day". Prices slipped 10 cents, or 0.2 percent, to $68.02 Wednesday.

Futures were little changed in NY.

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