Oil prices rise in Asian trade

SINGAPORE- Oil prices rose in Asian trade Thursday on lingering concerns over the Ukraine crisis, but analysts said a bearish US stockpiles report was dampening sentiment.

New York’s main contract, West Texas Intermediate for May delivery, was up 33 cents at $104.09 in mid-morning trade and Brent North Sea crude for June gained seven cents to $109.67.

Analysts said events in Eastern Europe continued to support oil prices ahead of Geneva talks on Thursday between Ukraine, Russia, the European Union and Washington.

Foreign ministers involved in the talks will seek to diffuse the tense situation in the east of the country, where government forces trying to reassert control have faced pro-Russian resistance.

Traders fear that any full-scale armed conflict in the region would disrupt supplies and send oil and gas prices rocketing because Ukraine is a major conduit for Russian gas to Western Europe.

A failure of Thursday’s talks could result in another round of western sanctions against Russia.

Singapore’s United Overseas Bank (UOB) said a weak US supply report was capping gains in oil prices.

The US Energy Information Administration’s weekly oil inventory report showed commercial crude stocks jumped 10 million barrels in the week to April 11, far above the 1.5 million barrel gain projected by analysts.

The rise was “the biggest one-week increase in US crude oil supplies in 13 years”, UOB said in a note.

A surge in US crude stockpiles is indicative of weak demand in the world’s biggest economy and top crude consumer, which would in turn hit global prices.