Crude flat in Asia as Egypt tensions ease

Crude prices were flat in Asian trade on Tuesday as easing fears of violence over Egypt’s political crisis reduced the risk of a supply disruption through the Suez Canal, analysts said.

New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in March, fell two cents to $87.46 per barrel.

Brent North Sea crude for March delivery shed three cents to $99.22.

Traders were divesting crude as risks of supply disruptions through the strategic Suez Canal lessened following an apparent easing of violence in Egypt, analysts said.

“Though the situation in Egypt is far from resolved, a slight improvement in the overall tensions surrounding this region helped calm nerves somewhat,” Barclays Capital said in a report.

The Suez Canal is a key shipping route cutting through Egypt, providing a sea link between Europe and Asia and allowing ships safer and faster travel between the two regions without having to sail around the African continent.

While Egypt is not a major crude producer, the canal carries about 2.4 million barrels of crude daily, roughly equal to Iraq or Brazil’s output.

On the back of Egypt concerns, Brent crude spiked to $103.37 last Thursday — its highest level since September 26, 2008.

Egyptian protesters have largely staved off violence after Vice President Omar Suleiman Sunday met with opposition groups in an effort to appease an anti-government revolt, although they have vowed to maintain their vigil.