Oil prices edged higher in Asia on Thursday but remained under pressure over ebbing fears about armed conflicts around the world and concerns about weakening US demand, analysts said.
The US benchmark, West Texas Intermediate for September delivery, rose nine cents to $97.01 in mid-morning trade, after falling 46 cents in New York to its lowest closing level since February 3.
Brent crude for September gained 13 cents to $104.72.
“Fears that the crises in the Middle East and Ukraine would disrupt supplies have abated, adding to a downward trend in oil prices,” Sanjeev Gupta, head of the oil and gas practice at consultancy EY, told AFP.
Oil prices have seen a build in risk premium in recent months over armed insurgencies in crude producers Iraq and Libya, as well as Ukraine, a key conduit for Russian energy exports to Europe.
But a market awash with supplies have since eased worries that disruptions caused by these geopolitical crises will have any significant impact on prices.
Gupta said prices were also capped by worries about demand in the United States, the world's biggest economy and top crude consumer.
The US Energy Information Administration's weekly inventory report released Wednesday showed a 4.4 million barrel drop in gasoline stocks and a 1.8 million barrel decline in diesel inventories. Both products had been expected to show increases.
Despite the bullish figures, market watchers are concerned about lower gasoline use once the summer driving season ends in a few weeks.
The driving season is the peak demand time for gasoline demand in the US as long road trips are taken for vacations.
Desmond Chua, market analyst at CMC Markets in Singapore, said investors are awaiting the outcomes of meetings of the European Central Bank and the Bank of England later on Thursday.
Both are unlikely to make any significant changes to their monetary policy in their respective meetings, he said. - Sapa-AFP