SEOUL, March 7 (Reuters) - U.S. crude futures held around $90.50 a barrel on Thursday, after dropping in the prior session on U.S. data showing a high weekly stock build, partly deflecting demand hopes after upbeat data on February employment from private American firms.
Investors will be looking at the European Central Bank’s policy meeting where the ECB could signal future rate cuts as more economic stimulus.
* U.S. light crude oil gained 1 cents a barrel at $90.44 as of 0030 GMT. In the previous session it closed 39 cents lower at $90.43 after ranging between $89.55 and $91.17.
* Brent crude oil futures previously settled down 55 cents at $111.06 per barrel after trading between $110.46 and $112.23.
* U.S. crude inventories rose last week even as imports fell, and fuel stocks declined as refineries processed less oil, government data from the Energy Information Administration showed on Wednesday.
In the world’s biggest oil consumer, crude inventories rose 3.83 million barrels in the week to March 1, much more than the rise of 500,000 barrels analysts had expected.
* U.S. private employers hired more workers than expected in February and demand for a range of factory goods was solid in January, hopeful signs for the economy as it deals with higher taxes and deep government budget cuts. The reports on Wednesday suggested economic activity picked up after it stalled in the final three months of 2012.
* Investors also tracked developments in Venezuela, the OPEC nation with the world’s largest oil reserves, following the death of President Hugo Chavez on Tuesday after a two-year battle with cancer. Weeping and shouting, a sea of Chavez’s supporters paraded his coffin through the streets of Caracas on Wednesday.
The country’s oil industry was operating normally and no disruption was expected, state oil company PDVSA said.
* Wall Street mostly edged higher on Wednesday, with the Dow hitting another record, helped by a private payroll survey that bodes well for the monthly jobs report due at the week’s end.
* Japan’s Nikkei share average rose above 12,000 on Thursday for the first time in 4-1/2 years, with risk appetite supported by a record high on Wall Street and the prospect of Japan soon adopting aggressively reflationary monetary policy.
* The yen, euro and sterling all struggled on Thursday with the pound hitting a 2-1/2 year trough as markets positioned for more stimulus from the Bank of England, and waited for the outcomes of the Bank of Japan and European Central Bank meetings.
As investors turned to the U.S. dollar, spurred by more job addition data in February, the dollar index touched 82.604, its highest since Aug. 20. It has rallied more than 4 percent from this year’s trough of 78.918 plumbed on Feb. 1.
* The following data is expected on Thursday:
0200 Japan Bank of Japan policy decision
0745 France Trade balance
0900 Italy Producer prices
1100 Germany Industrial orders
1200 Britain Bank of England bank rate
1245 Euro zone ECB rate decision
1330 European Central Bank President Mario Draghi holds
1330 U.S. International trade
1330 U.S. Weekly jobless claims
2000 U.S. Consumer credit
Reporting by Meeyoung Cho; Editing by Ed Davies