MTECHTIPS;-Oil nears 17-month highs on bets for bullish U.S.

MTECHTIPS;-Oil nears 17-month highs on bets for bullish U.S. stockpile data

MTECHTIPS- Oil prices rose for the fourth session in a row on Wednesday, as market players awaited fresh weekly information on U.S. stockpiles of crude and refined products. Crude oil for February delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange advanced 28 cents, or 0.53%, to $53.58 a barrel by 5:00 AM ET (10:00 GMT), within sight of a one-and-a-half-year peak of $54.51 touched on December 12. The U.S. Energy Information Administration will release its weekly report on oil supplies at 10:30 AM ET (15:30 GMT) Wednesday, amid analyst expectations for a decline of 2.5 million barrels. Gasoline inventories are expected to rise by 1.4 million barrels while stocks of distillates, which include heating oil and diesel, are forecast to drop by 1.1 million barrels. After markets closed Tuesday, the American Petroleum Institute said that U.S. oil inventories fell by 4.1 million barrels in the week ended December 16, more than the expected 2.4 million barrels decline and marking the fourth draw in the last five weeks. The API report also showed a decline of 2.0 million barrels in gasoline stocks, while distillates showed a drop of 1.5 million barrels on the week. Elsewhere, Brent oil for January delivery on the ICE Futures Exchange in London inched up 25 cents, or 0.45%, to $55.60 a barrel, not far from a 17-month high of $57.89 logged last week. Oil traders awaited further clarity on whether major crude producers will stick to their promise to pull back on output.

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