Oil prices down in Asia

Oil prices down in Asia

SINGAPORE - Oil prices fell in Asia Thursday following a mixed US supply report and easing concerns over tensions in the Middle East, analysts said.

US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for August delivery declined 49 cents to US$101.80 (S$126.44) while Brent crude dipped 13 cents to US$108.15 in afternoon trade.

"Oil tumbled as a rise in US gasoline inventories signalled weak demand, and a restart of a Libyan oilfield helped ease supply worries," Singapore's United Overseas Bank said in a note.

The US Department of Energy on Wednesday said crude inventories tumbled 2.4 million barrels in the week ended July 4, more than the 2.0 million barrels analysts had expected.

Gasoline stockpiles, however, rose 579,000 barrels to 214.3 million, upending analysts' expectations of a 300,000-barrel decline.

Gasoline inventory data is closely monitored at this time of the year, with the US summer holiday period representing the traditional peak demand for motor fuel.

A rise in inventories typically indicates weak demand, sending prices lower.

Analysts said oil prices remain under pressure over the expected return of disrupted Libya exports and Iraq unrest not yet affecting exports.

Brent crude has fallen more than US$3.0 since July 3 after Libya's interim Prime Minister Abdullah Al-Thani declared that authorities have regained control of two export terminals blockaded by rebels.

The ports at Ras Lanuf and Al-Sidra could add about 500,000 barrels of crude per day to global energy markets, analysts say.

In Iraq, a jihadist insurgency that has overrun large swathes of Iraq north and west has yet to impact on the country's key oil assets in the south.

Investors are also digesting an upbeat assessment of the US economy by Federal Reserve policymakers in the minutes of their June board meeting released Wednesday.

The minutes showed the US central bank plans to end its five-year-long, economy-boosting bond-buying scheme in October.

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