Oil nudged higher Wednesday as investors awaited a report on US crude inventories and the end of a Federal Reserve policy meeting, hoping for clues about the path for interest rates.
Analysts expect the report by the US Energy Information Administration later Wednesday to show a rise in stockpiles for the week ending October 23.
A build-up in the inventories is typically interpreted as a sign of softer demand in the world's top oil-consuming nation and a dampener on prices.
The mild autumn weather over much of the country, coupled with generous production of both oil and natural gas, has added to the oversupply and stockpiles are near all-time highs.
In early afternoon London deals, Brent North Sea crude for December delivery was down 26 cents at $47.07 per barrel.
US benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for delivery in December dipped 30 cents to $43.50 a barrel compared with Tuesday's close.
The weakness in oil prices "mostly comes from anticipation of Wednesday's release of the US crude inventories", said Daniel Ang, an investment analyst with Phillip Futures in Singapore.
Ang said the market is also awaiting the results of a meeting of the US central bank's Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), with the focus on the timing of an interest rate increase.
The meeting ends later Wednesday at 1800 GMT, with expectations the Fed will keep rates at record lows near-zero owing to weakness in the US and global economies, especially in China.
"We do not expect the FOMC to change policy this week," Nomura Securities said in a market commentary.
A majority of policy board members do not "seem convinced that action is needed at this moment, given the mixed nature of recent economic data and the ongoing fragility of financial markets", it said.
Any indication rates could be raised in the near term could hit oil prices. Higher rates tend to boost the dollar, making dollar-priced crude more expensive to buyers using weaker currencies.
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