(Refiles to remove bullet on Reuters poll on EIA data release)
PERTH, June 20 (Reuters) - U.S. oil prices fell below $98 on Thursday after U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke signalled a likely pullback in the Fed’s $85 billion stimulus program from later this year.
Oil prices were further pressured by data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration showing higher oil inventories in the world’s largest oil consumer.
* NYMEX crude futures for July delivery fell 89 cents to $97.35 a barrel by 0021 GMT, retreating from a fresh nine-month high of $99.02 a barrel on Wednesday.
* Brent crude fell 90 cents to $105.22 a barrel.
* Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said the U.S. economy is expanding strongly enough for the central bank to begin slowing down its stimulus program this year.
* Weekly data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration showed U.S. crude stocks rose by 313,000 barrels, against the market expectation for a 500,000 barrel decline.
* Asian shares tracked the overnight drop in U.S. equities after U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke confirmed market fears that the Fed would begin reducing its stimulus later this year as the economy improved.
* The U.S. dollar held firm in Asia on Thursday, having posted its best one-day gain in over a month after the Federal Reserve confirmed that it would begin to dial down stimulus this year if the economy continued to recover as it expected.
* The following data is expected on Wednesday: (Time in GMT)
0658 France Markit Mfg Flash PMI Jun FRPMIF=ECI
0728 Germany Markit Mfg Flash PMI Jun DEPMIF=ECI
0758 EZ Markit Mfg flash PMI Jun EUPMMF=ECI
1230 U.S. Jobless claims Weekly ECONUS
1400 U.S. Philly Fed business indx Jun USPFDB=ECI
1400 U.S. Exist. home sales % chg May USEHSP=ECI
1400 U.S. Existing home sales May USEHS=ECI
1430 U.S. EIA natural gas stocks Weekly USOILN=ECI (Reporting by Rebekah Kebede; Editing by Richard Pullin)