Oil prices were mixed in Asian trade today as investors returned from a long week-end holiday in the United States and a chokepoint at an important US pipeline eased, analysts said.

New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in March, gained six cents to $96.72 a barrel, while Brent North Sea crude for delivery in April dropped 14 cents to $117.38 per barrel.

US crude rose “on reports of increasing oil volume through the Seaway pipeline’’, IG Markets Singapore said in a report, referring to the key pipeline serving Gulf Coast refineries.

The Seaway pipeline has been troubled by distribution problems of late but plans to pump 295,000 barrels a day between late February and the end of May, media reports said.

Seaway is seen as a critical component in addressing a glut of oil at the bottlenecked US hub in Cushing, Oklahoma.

The pipeline’s capacity was recently expanded to 400,000 barrels a day from 150,000 barrels, but the operator has encountered technical problems that have limited the volume.

Other analysts said stronger US stocks after traders returned from a long week-end helped lift the market sentiment. Monday was a holiday in the United States.

Europe remains weighed down by weak economic data despite news that investor sentiment in Germany has risen to levels last seen before the start of the three-year-old euro zone debt crisis.

A recession in the 17-nation euro zone deepened sharply in the fourth quarter of 2012, with the economy shrinking 0.6 per cent in the three months to December, which compared with a contraction of 0.1 per cent in the previous quarter.