Oil prices were mixed in Asia today as dealers trod cautiously ahead of US President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech and as euro zone finance ministers discuss a debt bailout for Cyprus.

Talks of a currency war as Japan loosens monetary policy to stimulate its economy also spooked the markets and investors took advantage of the Lunar New Year holidays in Asia for some profit-taking, analysts said.

New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in March, was down 12 cents at $96.91 a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for March delivery inched up three cents to $118.16.

“While much of Asia enjoys Lunar New Year holidays, Western markets ground lower while talk of a currency war continued,” Jason Hughes, head of premium client management at IG Markets Singapore, said.

“Traders remained cautious ahead of some key events in the coming days while profit-taking crept in... President Obama gives his State of the Union address tonight while European finance ministers meet in Brussels.”

Investors were also watching a G20 gathering later this week and the results of a meeting of euro zone finance ministers on a financial bailout for Cyprus, analysts said.

Cyprus is heavily exposed to Greece’s public debt crisis.

“No firm decision is expected until after the completion of the Cypriot election at the end of this month,” research house Capital Economics said.

(This article was published on February 12, 2013)
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