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Oil steady as clarity on Fed rate hike awaited

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Oil prices were little changed on Tuesday, giving up some of the gains from the previous session, as traders awaited clarity on the Federal Reserve’s plans for rate hikes to gauge the impact on the economy and fuel demand.

Fed policymakers say fresh inflation data out later this week will help them decide whether they can slow the pace of interest rate hikes at their upcoming meeting, to just a quarter point increase instead of the larger jumps they used for most of 2022.

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Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell will make a speech later in the day at a central bank conference that could offer some signals on the Fed’s plan.

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Brent futures for March delivery fell 16 cents to $79.49 a barrel, a 0.2% drop, by 1:15 GMT. U.S. crude fell 5 cents, or 0.07%, to $74.58 per barrel.

Both benchmarks had climbed 1% on Monday, after China opened its borders over the weekend for the first time in three years.

China also issued a second batch of 2023 crude import quotas, according to sources and documents reviewed by Reuters, raising the total for this year by 20% from the same time last year.

The dollar index rose 0.1% after hitting a seven-month low in the previous session. A stronger dollar makes oil, which is priced in the currency, more expensive for foreign buyers.

U.S. crude oil stockpiles likely fell 2.4 million barrels, with distillate inventories also seen slightly down, a preliminary Reuters poll showed on Monday.

Industry group American Petroleum Institute is due to release data on U.S. crude inventories at 4.30 p.m. EDT (2030 GMT) on Tuesday.

The Energy Information Administration, the statistical arm of the U.S. Department of Energy, will release its own figures at 10.30 a.m. (1430 GMT) on Wednesday. (Reporting by Arathy Somasekhar; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)

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