Tokyo - Oil prices moved lower in Asia on Thursday as dealers looked ahead to fresh US economic data for clues about demand in the world's top crude consumer following a neutral weekly stockpiles report.
The US benchmark, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for October delivery, eased one cent to $93.87 while Brent crude slipped seven cents to $102.65 in mid-morning trade.
Singapore's United Overseas Bank said “oil prices were little changed” as investors weighed a 2.1 million barrel fall in overall US crude reserves, but with a 500 000 barrel increase at the key Cushing, Oklahoma, depot.
The US Energy Department's weekly report released on Wednesday also showed a 0.4 percent increase in total petroleum inventories, including distillates and gasoline.
Desmond Chua, market analyst at CMC Markets in Singapore, said investors “remain on the sidelines awaiting key US economic data”.
Data on initial jobless claims for the week to August 23 as well as pending home sales figures for July will be released later on Thursday, along with revised US gross domestic product figures for the second quarter.
“Aside from the second reading of GDP data - which is expected to notch slightly lower, from 4.0 percent to 3.9 percent - the labour and housing sectors are expected to continue to show signs of growth,” Chua said.
The simmering conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East are continuing to support oil prices, with little sign that they will either escalate further or be resolved imminently.
“With no resolution to the Libyan, Iraqi and Ukrainian crises in sight, the probability of Brent's upward movement in the medium term is much higher,” said Sanjeev Gupta, head of the Asia-Pacific oil and gas practice at business consultancy EY.
Brent crude is more leveraged to the international oil market compared to the US-focused WTI, and thus its prices are more sensitive to potential global supply disruptions.