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Oil prices dip as inventory build drags

[SINGAPORE] Crude futures dipped slightly on Wednesday as ballooning US storage volumes continued to pressure prices although relatively healthy demand figures from Europe supported prices.

Brent oil futures were trading at US$55.09 a barrel at 0354 GMT, down two cents, while US WTI crude was at US$47.40 a barrel, down 11 US cents.

Strengthening European manufacturing data - and the implication of greater energy demand - lent prices some support even as the expectation of further stock builds in the United States weighed on oil markets. "Another week, another record US commercial stock level," said US-based PIRA Energy.

A poll of eight analysts - taken ahead of weekly reports from industry group the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) - forecast a crude stock build of 5.1 million barrels on average last week.

The API report on Tuesday showed a slightly smaller build in US crude stocks at 4.8 million barrels for last week. Any build from the more closely watched EIA figures due out later on Wednesday would confirm US crude stockpiles have hit a record for the eleventh straight week.

In Japan, commercial weekly crude stocks were down 2.8 per cent to 82.87 million barrels. The year-on-year change was a drop of nearly 8 per cent.