SINGAPORE Feb 7 (Reuters) - U.S. crude steadied near $97 per barrel on Thursday as investors took a breather after the past few weeks of gains, ahead of a European Central Bank meeting later in the day and China's trade numbers due on Friday.
* U.S. crude rose 20 cents to $96.82 per barrel at 0014 GMT, after losing ground in the previous session on a rise in inventories. It has gained for the last eight consecutive weeks, longest such winning streak since 2004.
* Saudi Arabia kept oil output steady in January, an industry source said, after two months of sharp reductions that surprised oil traders and coincided with a rise in crude oil prices.
* Laws restricting exports of U.S. crude oil could cap the recent surge in domestic output, the executive director of the International Energy Agency wrote in the Financial Times on Wednesday.
* The European Central Bank is unlikely to contemplate an interest rate cut at its policy meeting despite the euro's sharp rise. Far more likely is that the appreciation will delay discussion of an exit from the ECB's crisis policy.
* China needs to pay special attention to consumer prices with controlling inflation a priority, the central bank said on Wednesday in a turnaround from its previous focus of supporting economic growth.
* Tunisia's ruling Islamists dissolved the government on Wednesday and promised rapid elections in a bid to calm the biggest street protests since the revolution two years ago, sparked by the killing of an opposition leader.
* A European Union court has ruled that the EU should lift sanctions it imposed on one of Iran's largest banks, the second such judgment that could complicate Western efforts to increase pressure on the Islamic Republic.
* U.S. crude inventories rose to 371.7 million barrels last week and have been building to near-record seasonal highs, government data from the Energy Information Administration shows.
* U.S. stocks ended mostly flat on Wednesday, taking another pause in the recent rally that has driven the S&P 500 to five-year highs, as transportation and technology shares lost ground.
* The euro drifted lower on Thursday, while sterling wallowed at multi-month lows as cautious investors waited for the outcomes of central bank policy meetings in Europe.
0530 India 2011/12 GDP
0745 France Trade data
1100 Germany Industrial output
1200 Britain BOE rate decision
1245 Euro zone ECB rate decision
1330 ECB President Mario Draghi gives news conference
1330 U.S. Weekly jobless claims
2000 U.S. Consumer credit
(Reporting by Ramya Venugopal; Editing by Himani Sarkar)
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