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Oil prices up in Asian trade


OIL prices rose in Asia on Friday as dealers focused on increasing tensions in the Middle East and Ukraine, while shrugging off concerns about surging US stockpiles, analysts said. 

US benchmark West Texas Intermediate added 20 cents to $50.96 while Brent gained 38 cents to $60.86 in afternoon trade.

“We are seeing a constructive market at the moment with traders seeing a lot of upside potential, possibly based on tensions in the Middle East and Ukraine,” Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets in Sydney, told AFP.

“Somehow, we are seeing investors looking away from the huge build in US inventories this week,” he added.

Libya’s National Oil Co declared force majeure Wednesday at 11 oil fields after attacks by Islamists. 

The OPEC member has been battling the rise of militias seeking control of its cities and oil wealth since the killing of dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011.

Unabated fighting has seen its output reduced from a high of almost 1.5 million barrels a day to 150,000, according to analysts.  

In Ukraine, investors are closely watching latest efforts to prop up a ceasefire in the country’s eastern region, currently controlled by pro-Russia rebels. 

The 10-month conflict in the country — a key conduit for Russian energy exports to Europe — is seen as Europe’s worse since the war in the Balkans in the 1990s. 

Analysts said dealers will next scrutinise the release later Friday of US non-farm payrolls and unemployment data for February, looking for clues on the strength of the US economy.

Data on Wednesday showing an unexpected 10.3 million barrels surge in US crude reserves in the week to February 27 had dampened expectations of robust demand in the world’s top crude consumer ahead of summer. 


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