* Hurricane damage to offshore rigs expected to be limited
* EIA says U.S. crude oil stocks rose last week
* Coming up: US jobless claims data 8:30 a.m. EDT Thursday
(Recasts, updates prices, market activity)
By Robert Gibbons
NEW YORK, Aug 29 Brent crude prices edged lower
in choppy trading on Wednesday, while U.S. oil futures fell on
expectations that damage to oil facilities from Hurricane Isaac
will be limited and in reaction to data showing a sharp rise in
U.S. crude oil stocks.
Brent crude losses were tempered by upcoming North Sea
maintenance, the ongoing turmoil in the Middle East and the
possibility of a strike by Norwegian oil service sector workers.
Technical support was a factor, with Brent's pull back
stalling 2 cents above its 200-day moving average of $111.48 a
barrel, traders said.
Hurricane Isaac drove water over the top of a levee on the
outskirts of New Orleans, but the multibillion-dollar barriers
built to protect the city itself after the 2005 Katrina disaster
were not breached, officials said.
"It is expected that oil production in the Gulf of Mexico
will quickly return to normal," said Carsten Fritsch, an oil
analyst at Commerzbank in Frankfurt.
Isaac was downgraded to a tropical storm by the U.S.
National Hurricane Center after crude prices settled.
Brent October crude eased 4 cents to settle at
$112.54 a barrel, having swung from $111.50 to $113.30 during
U.S. October crude settled down 84 cents at $95.49 a
barrel. Its $96.37 session peak fell short of the 200-day moving
average of $96.72.
Total U.S. crude trading volume was 41 percent below the
30-day average and Brent's turnover, while outpacing the U.S.
dealings, lagged the 30-day average by 8 percent.
With front-month refined product futures set to expire on
Friday, U.S. RBOB gasoline for September delivery slipped
more than 2 cents, while heating oil also dipped.
Also weighing on oil prices was the possibility that
consuming nations may release strategic oil reserves.
The White House reiterated on Wednesday that the option to
tap the U.S. reserve was "on the table," but the spokesman said
he had no announcement a day after the Group of Seven finance
ministers said they recognized the danger to the global economy
from high prices and stood ready to call on the International
Energy Agency to ensure the market is well
U.S. OIL INVENTORIES
U.S. crude oil inventories rose 3.78 million barrels to
364.52 million in the week to Aug. 24, the U.S. Energy
Information Administration said on Wednesday, against
expectations stocks would fall 1.5 million barrels.
Crude stocks in the Gulf Coast region rose 3.18 million
barrels, the EIA data showed.
Distillate stocks rose 873,000 barrels versus a forecast for
a 100,000-barrel drop and gasoline stocks fell 1.51 million
barrels, in line with expectations.
The EIA data showing a rise in crude oil stocks came after
Tuesday's American Petroleum Institute data, which said crude
stocks rose 5.5 million barrels last week.
Isaac battered the U.S. Gulf Coast on Wednesday, but
companies and government officials have so far not verified or
reported any discernible damage to shut refineries or offshore
oil and gas platforms.
The Gulf of Mexico accounts for 23 percent of the nation's
oil production and 7 percent of natural gas output. As of
Wednesday, U.S. government figures showed 94.7 percent of
offshore oil production and 71 percent of natural gas output
Isaac's slow trek through the region could keep the fate of
Louisiana refineries uncertain through Wednesday, although
initial reports did not indicate significant damage to plants.
(Additional reporting by David Sheppard in New York, Ramya
Venugopal in Singapore and Christopher Johnson in London;
Editing by Bob Burgdorfer and Marguerita Choy)