Oil prices steadied on Thursday after recent strong gains, as traders sat tight before the release of US growth data. New York\'s main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in February, rose 13 cents to $98.80 a barrel. Brent North Sea crude for February dipped five cents to $107.66 around midday in London. \"Today, the oil market is on a consolidation mode and crude oil prices are trading sideways ahead of the release of the major US economic figures that could show some short-term direction,\" said Sucden Financial Research analyst Myrto Sokou. Oil prices had risen strongly for a second day running on Wednesday after official data showed that crude inventories fell by far more than expected in the United States. Crude inventories in the United States, the world\'s biggest oil-consuming nation, tumbled by 10.6 million barrels in the week to December 16, the US Department of Energy announced. Analysts had expected crude stockpiles to fall by only 2.4 million barrels. Promising economic news from the US and Europe had already sent oil prices surging more than $3.0 on Tuesday, while tensions over major crude-producer Iran added to the buying, traders said.