SINGAPORE, Apr 6 (Reuters) Oil prices extended gains toward $68 a barrel on Thursday after a bigger-than-expected draw in U.S.
gasoline stocks reignited worries about summer supplies in the world's top fuel consumer.
U.S. light sweet crude oil futures climbed 38 cents or 0.57 percent to $67.45 a barrel, adding to Wednesday's 1.3 percent surge.
The market touched a two-month high of $67.90 a barrel on Monday before succumbing to a brief round of profit-taking.
Gasoline led gains with a 1.8 percent rise to $1.9825 a gallon after soaring 2.7 percent a day ago when the U.S. government reported a deep 4.4 million-barrel drop in weekly stocks of the motor fuel, their fifth draw in a row. ''Again it's the story of gasoline inventories... providing a bit more support for prices,'' said Gerard Burg, minerals and energy economist at the National Australia Bank in Melbourne.
Gasoline tanks are now about 1 million barrels above the upper end of the average range, but the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said on Wednesday that stocks could fall sharply before the end of April if more refiners shut for work.
The low inventory level has compounded worries that changing specifications may also create shortages in some areas of the United States, whose gasoline consumption accounts for more than a tenth of the world's oil use.
Inventories of crude, which hit a seven-year high a month ago, rose by 2.1 million barrels last week while distillate supplies fell by 2.6 million barrels, maintaining a healthy surplus over last year, EIA data showed. S] Oil prices were also buoyed by the resumption of investment fund buying in the commodities sector, which on Wednesday helped lifted copper and zinc by 3 percent to new record highs. Orange juice soared to its highest in 14 years.
Real and risked disruptions also lingered in the background.
In Nigeria, hope for restoring the more than half a million barrels of daily production that has been shut in for two months appeared dimmer after some of the militants involved in recent attacks said they would not participate in talks.
Industry sources said on Wednesday that oil companies had no plans to return staff to abandoned oilfields in the Niger Delta until there was a truce with militants.
Nigerian Oil Minister Edmund Daukoru has said production at Royal Dutch Shell's 115,000 barrel-per-day offshore EA oilfield should resume imminently, but Shell has not confirmed this.
REUTERS SHB RN1129