SINGAPORE, Dec 18: Oil prices were little changed in Asia today after data showed US stockpiles dipping, while the Federal Reserve indicated interest rates would not be hiked until the middle of next year.
US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for January delivery fell 27 cents to $56.20 while Brent crude for February gained two cents to $61.20 in afternoon trade.
The price stabilisation in Asian trade follow an advance Wednesday that came after the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) said reserves in the world's top crude consumer fell 800,000 barrels in the week ending December 12.
"Benchmark prices... received a minor reprieve after the EIA's report that crude oil inventory in the US has declined," said Sanjeev Gupta, head of the Asia-Pacific oil and gas practice at business consultancy EY.
Daniel Ang, investment analyst at Singapore-based Phillip Futures, said the respite for oil prices was "unexpected".
"We believe that the market may be missing the point or simply favouring $60 Brent prices," Ang said.
Oil prices have been battered this year, falling about 50 percent from their 2014 highs in June owing to a global supply glut, a strong dollar and OPEC's refusal to cut production.
Adding to the short-term upbeat outlook was the Fed policy board's statement that it could be "patient in beginning to normalise the stance of monetary policy", adding that the decision will depend on economic data.
The announcement raised the likelihood that rates would be hiked by the mid-2015, pouring water on speculation of an earlier increase owing to the resurgent US economy.