NYMEX-U.S. crude holds near 3-month high on euro zone hopes
SINGAPORE Aug 22 (Reuters) - U.S. crude futures held near a three-month high of $97 a barrel in early Asian trade on Wednesday, boosted by hopes that the European Central Bank will take steps to rein in borrowing costs for Spain and Italy.
U.S. crude rose 9 cents to $96.93 per barrel by 0016 GMT. It rose above $97 on Tuesday to reach a fresh three-month high. Brent rose 21 cents to $114.85 per barrel.
* Iran's biggest oil buyers, China and India, sharply cut their imports in July as the pressures from sanctions build, official data from the two countries on Tuesday showed. India's Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Ltd has drawn up a plan to replace Iran crude, including tapping spot markets for high sulphur oil as imports dry up.
* South Sudan expects to restart some oil output in December and more after June next year, an official said on Tuesday, after the new country struck an interim deal with Sudan that would allow it to resume crude exports across Sudanese territory.
* U.S. crude stocks fell more than expected last week led by a sharp drop in West Coast crude inventories as imports dipped, the American Petroleum Institute said on Tuesday. Crude inventories fell by 6 million barrels in the week to Aug. 17, compared with analysts' expectations for a 400,000-barrel drawdown.
* The U.S. economic recovery has been disappointing but monetary policy may not be capable of solving many current challenges, Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank President Dennis Lockhart said on Tuesday.
* The euro rose to a seven-week high against the U.S. dollar on Tuesday on talk the European Central Bank may act soon to lower the borrowing costs of Spain and Italy, allaying concerns about the debt crisis that has long plagued the region.
* U.S. stocks fell on Tuesday after the S&P 500 hit its highest level in four years as the benchmark index faced technical resistance and traders cashed in recent gains.
* 1400 U.S. Existing home sales for July
1800 U.S. FOMC minutes
1430 U.S. EIA petroleum status report (Reporting by Elizabeth Law and Ramya Venugopal; Editing by Ed Davies)
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