Crude oil futures were higher during mid-morning trade in Asia Thursday, after falling more than $1/b overnight, on mild bargain hunting and comments by producer countries ahead of the OPEC/non-OPEC meeting next week.  At 10:55 am Singapore time (0255 GMT), ICE January Brent crude futures were up 22 cents/b (0.37%) from Wednesday’s settle at $58.98/b, while the NYMEX January light sweet crude contract was 31 cents/b (0.62%) higher at $50.60/b.

Crude prices shed more than $1/b in late Wednesday trade after a larger- than-expected build in US crude stocks was reported for the week ended November 23.  However a fall in US gasoline inventories and a rise in US crude exports provided some bullish support amid an otherwise bearish report from the Energy Information Administration.

US crude exports jumped 473,00 b/d to 2.44 million b/d last week, snapping three consecutive weeks of declines, while US gasoline stocks fell 764,000 barrels to 224.55 million barrels, the EIA data showed. This was counter to analyst expectations of a 141,000-barrel build.  Market focus Thursday remained on any comments made by producer countries ahead of the OPEC/non-OPEC meeting set for December 6-7 in Vienna.

According to media reports, Russian President Vladimir Putin Wednesday said that crude at around $60/b was “absolutely fine.”  The market’s recent slump to around $60/b was not bothering Russia as its budget was based on much lower prices, Putin was quoted as saying in Moscow, though he said he remained open to cooperating with OPEC “if needed.”