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UPDATE 1-Oil rises towards $38 on surprise crude stocks drop
* U.S. crude stocks fall unexpectedly, says API
* U.S. crude supply seen up on low runs in EIA weekly data
* Doubts about success of bank rescue plan rattle markets (Adds Saudi oil minister's comments)
By Fayen Wong
PERTH, Feb 11 (Reuters) - Oil climbed towards $38 a barrel on Wednesday, paring some of overnight's 5 percent losses, after the industry group American Petroleum Institute's weekly inventory data showed crude stockpiles had fallen unexpectedly.
But a downward revision by the U.S. government on its oil demand forecasts and doubts over the effectiveness of the U.S. government's bank rescue plan capped oil's gains.
U.S. crude CLc1 for March delivery CLc1 rose 38 cents to $37.93 a barrel by 0225 GMT, after settling down $2.01, or 5 percent, at $37.55 a barrel on Tuesday.
London Brent crude LCOc1 rose 50 cents to $45.11, stretching its unusual premium over U.S. oil prices to more than $7 a barrel, nearing the record above $9 hit last month as storage tanks in the Cushing delivery point neared their peaks.
"The API data is helping prices to rebound after last night's sell-off. Oil prices were perhaps a little oversold amid the panic across the equities and commodities markets," said Toby Hassall, chief analyst at Commodities Warrants Australia.
"The macroeconomic data from the U.S. is not painting a picture of swift recovery but the API numbers could be an indication that supply and demand in the spot market is beginning to get a little more balanced."
U.S. crude oil stockpiles unexpectedly fell 1.996 million barrels last week despite an increase in import levels and a decline from refineries, data from the American Petroleum Institute on Tuesday [ID:nN10393479], bucking expectations that crude stocks would increase by 3.1 million barrels.
Analysts said investors were cautiously optimistic as the API report comes one day ahead of the U.S. Energy Information Administration's (EIA) weekly report on petroleum supply and demand, which is considered to be accurate.
U.S. crude oil inventories rose for the seventh consecutive time last week, analysts forecast in a Reuters poll on Tuesday, citing a drop in refinery utilisation and higher imports. [nN10459454]
In yet another sign that OPEC would cut production targets at its next meeting in March, Saudi Arabia's oil minister said low oil prices were as unjustified and unsustainable as the record peak above $147 a barrel last summer. [nN10330376]
But expectations that the International Energy Agency will cut its forecasts for 2009 world energy demand yet again this week due to a worsening economic outlook [nN10306549] continued to weigh on oil markets.
Oil's sharp losses on Tuesday, which dragged it back below the psychologically important $40 mark, came after the U.S. government revised its oil demand forecasts lower and on concerns the American banks bailout plan unveiled by the Obama administration will do little to revive the ailing economy. [TOPWRAP]
The EIA revised down its 2009 global oil demand forecast by 400,000 barrels per day from the previous outlook, predicting demand will fall by 1.17 million bpd this year from 2008 levels. [ID:nN10292667]
Analysts said investors would be closely eyeing Chinese import and export data as well as U.S. international trade figures to gauge the health of the economy. (Editing by Ben Tan)
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