LONDON - Oil prices were narrowly mixed on Thursday as traders assessed a possible return of Libyan supplies and after official data showed a drop in US crude inventories.
LONDON – Oil prices were narrowly mixed on Thursday as traders assessed a possible return of Libyan supplies and after official data showed a drop in US crude inventories.
New York’s main contract, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for delivery in January, rose 24 cents to $97.68 a barrel.
Brent North Sea crude for January fell 14 cents to stand at $109.56 a barrel in London afternoon deals.
“Brent prices held above $109 a barrel as US crude stockpiles fell and many remained critical of an end to the turmoil in Libya which would resume oil exports,” said Lucy Sidebotham, analyst at energy consultancy Inenco.
“US stockpiles saw the biggest decrease since December 2012, however this has had little effect on prices as it could be due to an end-of-year push to empty facilities and avoid being taxed on inventories, and that it doesn’t necessarily indicate strong demand.”
The US Department of Energy (DoE) on Wednesday said that crude inventories fell 10.6 million barrels in the week ending December 6, more than four times the 2.5 million barrel decline estimated on average by analysts polled by Dow Jones Newswires.
But the drop in crude stocks, the second consecutive drawdown after a 10-week run of rises, was offset by bigger-than-expected increases in gasoline and distillates, weighing on the WTI contract.
Market focus was also on Libya, where a tribal chief announced that a months-long blockade by armed protesters of vital oil terminals would be lifted on December 15.
The protests as well as blockades of fuel deliveries by the Berber minority have slashed Libya’s oil output to about 250,000 barrels per day from normal levels of nearly 1.5 million.
“The Libyan government expect to be able to reopen three ports this weekend… however this has had little effect as many are sceptical,” said Sidebotham.