Oil down in Asian trade

Oil barrels
Singapore, Apr 5: World oil prices were lower in Asian trade on Tuesday, Apr 5 as investors locked in profits from a recent surge, but protests in the Arab world remained a concern, analysts said.

New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in May, known as the West Texas Intermediate (WTI), was down 23 cents to USD 108.24 per barrel.

Brent North Sea crude for May delivery fell seven cents to USD 120.99.

"Oil prices pulled back... as the high prices prompted profit-taking from traders and investors," said Victor Shum, senior principal at Purvin and Gertz international energy consultants in Singapore.

Crude prices surged to two-and-a-half-year highs on Monday, Apr 4 with Brent crude topping USD 120 a barrel for the first time since August 22, 2008 due to the continuing unrest in Libya and positive US economic data.

Statistics released by the US Labour Department Friday showed unemployment in the world''s biggest oil consumer declining by 1.0 percentage point to 8.8 percent in Mar, giving "an upbeat reading on the US economy that supported oil," Shum told AFP.

Investors remain jittery over the political situation in the oil-producing Middle East and North Africa region where popular uprisings have already toppled the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt.

With Libyan rebels fighting to depose veteran leader Muammar Gaddafi with the help of warplanes from Western powers, and street protests rocking Syria, there are fears the unrest could spread to the rest of the region and disrupt oil supplies.

In Gabon, sub-Saharan Africa''s fourth-largest oil producer, a strike by oil-sector employees had halted almost all oil production.

Gabon's oil daily output normally ranges from 220,000 to 240,000 barrels.

The Libyan government today said it was ready to negotiate reforms, but refused any talk of Gaddafi stepping down.

Oil-rich Libya was producing 1.69 million barrels a day before the unrest, according to the International Energy Agency. It is now producing 400,000 barrels a day.


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