Oil prices edged lower in Asian trade with few leads to spur fresh market movement, but retained support from signs of resurgent demand in the United States, the world’s biggest oil consumer, analysts said.
New York’s main contract, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude for January delivery, was down nine cents at $98.42 in mid-morning Asian trade, while Brent North Sea crude for January eased 10 cents to $109.28.
“Cautiousness and profit-taking was the dominant mood in the market amid a lack of data and events,” French bank Credit Agricole said in a note.
Desmond Chua, market analyst at CMC Markets in Singapore, said a report from the US Department of Energy is likely to show a “substantial drawdown in US stockpiles’’.
Industry group American Petroleum Institute (API) said US crude stockpiles dipped 7.5 million barrels in the week to December 6. The US DoE will release official stockpile figures later today.
Yesterday, the OPEC oil cartel stuck to its forecast that 2014 global oil demand would grow at a faster rate than in 2013 thanks to accelerating world economic growth.
Average 2014 demand would be 98.84 million barrels per day, up 1.04 million bpd from 2013, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries said in its December report.
In Libya, a month-long blockade by armed protesters of vital oil terminals will be lifted on December 15, a tribal chief had announced on Tuesday.
The protests as well as blockades of fuel deliveries by the Berber minority have slashed Libya’s oil output to about 250,000 bpd from the normal levels of nearly 1.5 million bpd.
“The return of Libyan oil into markets is likely to bring down Brent crude prices,” said Singapore-based Phillip Futures.