NEW YORK, Nov 25 (Reuters) - Crude futures erased early losses to settle steady on Wednesday after a smaller-than-expected supply build in the United States and drop in the number of U.S. rigs actively drilling for oil.
Traders and investors also covered short positions before U.S. markets close for Thursday's Thanksgiving holiday, analysts said.
"People did not want to be caught short ahead of the holiday with the global political tensions," said Phil Flynn, analyst at Chicago-brokerage Price Futures Group. "The combination of that and a drop in the rig count earlier helped push us higher."
On Tuesday, crude futures hit two-week highs after Turkey shot down a Russian warplane for alleged intrusion of its airspace, heightening political tensions in the Middle East.
Benchmark Brent crude futures settled up 5 cents at $46.17 on Wednesday, after falling more than $1 to a session low of $45.03.
U.S. crude's West Texas Intermediate (WTI) futures finished the session 17 cents higher at 43.04 a barrel. WTI had also slipped more than $1 to an intraday low of $41.72.
Trading volumes were light, typical of pre-holiday activity. Just over 360,000 lots of WTI futures were traded, versus Monday's volume above 500,000, Reuters data showed.
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