Oil prices rise in Asia

SINGAPORE- Oil prices rose in Asian trade Wednesday ahead of the US Department of Energy’s crude stockpiles report and a testimony in Congress by Federal Reserve chief Janet Yellen.

The US benchmark, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for June delivery, gained 57 cents to $100.07 a barrel in afternoon trade, while Brent North Sea crude for June rose 19 cents to $107.25.

Analysts expect a report on US crude supplies to be released later Wednesday to show an increase, which would suggest weaker demand in the world’s top oil consuming nation.

Yellen is also scheduled to testify before a joint committee in the US Congress later in the day and traders will focus on her assessment of the health of the US economy.

Dutch bank ABN-AMRO said in a note it expects Yellen to reiterate the message that the Federal Reserve “was becoming more optimistic about the strength of the economy, after the winter slump in the beginning of the year”.

The crisis in Ukraine, a major conduit for Russian oil and gas exports to Europe, also kept prices supported, analysts said.

Russia rejected a new peace initiative on Tuesday as fears of open war mounted in the former Soviet state, where government forces are battling Moscow-backed separatist militias.