LONDON, Nov 17 (AFP): World oil prices steadied on Thursday as the market digested a surprise drawdown in US crude stockpiles, with the focus still on mild temperatures in the northern hemisphere, dealers said.
New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in December, eased seven cents to 57.81 dollars per barrel in electronic dealing.
In London on Thursday, the price of Brent North Sea crude for January delivery firmed two cents to 56.02 dollars per barrel.
Crude futures had risen overnight in New York after data from the US Department of Energy showed an unexpected drop in crude stocks for the first time in six weeks.
The energy report also showed a rise in distillates, which are used to make heating oil, indicating the slow start to winter which had been one of the main reasons behind the market's recent falls, dealers said.
"Distillate supply is on a rising trend, following warming weather, massive imports and increasing production due to yield switching ahead of winter," said Societe Generale analyst Alexandre Kervino.
"Only a cold snap could lift the current mood," he said, adding that weather forecasters are predicting the arrival of winter later this week, at the earliest.
The DoE said in its weekly report crude stocks fell by 2.2 million barrels for the week to November 11. Analysts had pencilled in a rise of 1.6 million barrels.
Gasoline reserves fell by 900,000 barrels, confounding market forecasts for a 1.3-million-barrel rise.
Distillates stocks posted their first rise in eight weeks to climb by 2.6 million barrels, beating analysts' forecasts of a 600,000-barrel gain.
Unusually warm weather in the northeast United States has curbed demand for heating oil and allowed refiners to build up stocks. But demand is expected to surge once winter starts to bite.