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Oil edges up ahead of U.S. rig count data

TOKYO, Feb 20 – Oil markets edged up on Friday to halt a two-day decline, helped by expectations that data later in the day would show a continuing decline in the U.S. oil rig count, a clear sign of the pressure the tumble in crude is putting on oil producers.

The Baker Hughes survey is likely to show that the number of rigs drilling for oil in the United States fell for the 11th straight week to multi-year lows, market participants said.

“I assume we’re going to continue to see another big fall and that’s going to provide support for the market,” said Tony Nunan, a risk manager at Mitsubishi Corp in Tokyo. “The expected fall in the second half is being built into current prices”

Related: Oil steadies above $60, U.S. rig count expected to fall

London Brent crude for April delivery was trading 30 cents higher at $60.51 a barrel by 0245 GMT after settling down 32 cents on Thursday.

The contract is headed for its first weekly decline in four weeks of around 1.6 percent, after declining 3.7 percent in the past two sessions due to a higher-than-expected rise in U.S. oil inventories.

Oil has rallied over the past month, with Brent gaining about 34 percent from a mid-January low as traders covered short positions following a 60 percent crash since June.

U.S. crude for March delivery, which expires later in the day, was up 41 cents at $51.57. Trading was quiet in Asian hours as markets in China, Singapore and several other countries were closed for the Lunar New Year holiday.

(Reporting by Osamu Tsukimori; Editing by Alan Raybould)