By Shadia Nasralla
LONDON (Reuters) -Oil futures dipped slightly on Thursday, with trader expectations of further interest rate hikes countered by potentially bullish U.S. oil inventory data after preliminary figures showed a fall in stocks.
Brent futures eased by 47 cents, or 0.6%, to $76.65 a barrel at 0840 GMT and U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were down 44 cents, or 0.6%, at $72.09.
The benchmarks had firmed in the previous session as U.S. corn and soybean prices raced to multi-month highs, raising expectations that crop shortfalls could lower biofuels blending and increase oil demand.
However, the market was cautious after Fed Chair Jerome Powell said two more interest rate hikes of 25 basis points each by the end of the year was "a pretty good guess".
The Bank of England is expected to raise rates for a 13th time at 1100 GMT in the face of stubbornly strong inflation.
Higher interest rates could slow economic growth and reduce oil demand.
Oil prices held on to most of the previous session's gains as the market kept a lookout for fresh drivers, such as official U.S. oil inventory data due at 1430 GMT [EIA/S] and Chinese factory activity data due next week.
In a preliminary indicator, industry data showed U.S. crude oil inventories fell by about 1.2 million barrels last week, defying forecasts for a build of 300,000 barrels. [API/S]
Meanwhile, an executive at U.S. shale producer EOG Resources said oil prices could rise as muted increases in U.S. oil production and cuts by OPEC+ producers will limit supply in the months ahead.
"With demand seasonally rising over the coming months, we expect larger oil inventory declines to become visible and support oil prices," said UBS strategist Giovanni Staunovo.
(Reporting by Shadia NasrallaAdditional reporting by Jeslyn LerhEditing by David Goodman)
(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)