Oil prices rise in Asian trade on bargain-hunting

Oil prices recovered some lost ground in Asia on Wednesday, with traders hunting for bargains following two days of losses, analysts said.

New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in October, added 18 cents to 72.10 dollars a barrel after plunging 2.78 dollars in US trade Tuesday.

Brent North Sea crude for October delivery was up 17 cents to 74.81 dollars after dropping 1.96 dollars the day before.

“It could be bargain hunting,” said Serene Lim, oil and gas analyst at ANZ bank in Singapore.

Wednesday’s price recovery was against an unexpected rise in crude inventories in data released by the American Petroleum Institute (API) which would normally push prices lower as they indicate weaker demand.

API figures showed US crude stockpiles soaring 4.8 million barrels last week, against analyst expectations for a 1.1 million barrel rise.

Petrol stocks fell more than expected, shedding 589,000 barrels compared with forecasts for a 200,000 barrel draw, the API said.

However, the fall in petrol stockpiles did little to counteract negative sentiment from the crude inventory increase as “the (US) summer driving season is coming to an end,” Lim said.

Markets were also awaiting other crucial US data this week, including industrial manufacturing numbers on Wednesday and key employment figures on Friday, in the hope of getting a clear lead on the economic outlook in the world’s biggest economy.