Oil prices up in Asian trade

SINGAPORE- Oil prices rose in Asia Thursday as dealers await the latest US supply report for clues about demand in the world’s biggest crude consumer, while supply concerns also provided support.

US benchmark, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for delivery in July, climbed 17 cents to $102.89 a barrel in afternoon trade, while Brent North Sea crude for July gained four cents to $109.85.

The Department of Energy will release the latest US stockpiles report later Thursday, a day later than usual because of the Memorial Day holiday on Monday.

Stockpiles are expected to have risen 100,000 in the week ended May 23, according to a Wall Street Journal survey.

Last week’s release saw an unexpected 7.2 million barrel fall, signalling improved demand.

Sanjeev Gupta, head of the Asia-Pacific oil and gas practice at consultancy firm EY, said apart from US stockpiles data, “oil markets will be following developments in Ukraine and Libya closely”.

Ukrainian forces Wednesday saw fresh losses following a rebel raid in the separatist east, even as president-elect Petro Poroshenko vowed to hold talks with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to ease the crisis.

The West has accused Russia of fomenting unrest in its neighbor since the ousting of pro-Kremlin president Viktor Yanukovych in February. Moscow denies the allegation.

Investors fear a full-blown conflict in the ex-Soviet state, a conduit for a quarter of European gas imports from Russia, will disrupt supplies and send energy prices soaring.

There are also mounting concerns about a possible supply disruption in Libya, a member of oil cartel OPEC, as it faces increasing political and security turmoil.