Oil lower in Asian trade

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Singapore, Mar 14: Oil prices slipped in Asian trade on Wednesday as investors took profits from recent gains, although upbeat economic data and Middle East tensions provided some support, analysts said.

New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in April was down one cent at USD 106.70 and Brent North Sea crude for April delivery shed 25 cents to USD 125.97 in morning trade. "We are seeing a slight retreat in oil prices, with some profit-taking happening today," said Justin Harper, market strategist at IG Markets Singapore.

"But the market still remains quite bullish overall supported by optimism about the world economy," he told AFP. Oil prices have climbed steadily in the past week thanks to improved sentiment about the US economy, the world's largest oil consumer.

And further support was added yesterday, with data showing US retail sales grew 1.1 per cent from January, the sharpest rise in five months, suggesting improvement in consumer spending. Elsewhere, traders were also closely watching the stand-off between crude producer Iran and the West over Tehran's nuclear programme, which Washington fears is being used to build weapons.

The Islamic republic has been hit with a raft of economic sanctions over the issue and Tehran has warned that it will blockade the strategic Strait of Hormuz -- a conduit for one-fifth of the world's oil supply -- if it faced any more. Such a move would send the price of oil soaring. 

AFP

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