Crude oil prices rise as fears over Israeli attack on Iran and the global economic outlook cause uncertainty
World oil prices rose earlier this week, with New York crude reaching the highest level for three and a half months on tensions between Iran and Israel, and economic recovery hopes
Oil prices rose further again Wednesday as analysts predicted a strain on supplies and Middle East tensions would support crude prices.
Benchmark crude for October delivery rose 9 cents at midday in Asia to $96.93 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract finished 71 cents higher at $96.68 in New York on Tuesday.
Analysts at JBC Energy research group said "growing tensions in the Middle East and hints of new economic stimulus measures" were supporting prices
Israel's media is increasingly speaking about an imminent unilateral strike being prepared by the country against nuclear sites in major oil producer Iran.
Israel, like its close ally the United States, accuses Iran of seeking to develop an atomic arsenal.
Tehran denies this, and says its nuclear program is exclusively peaceful, while its military chiefs warn that they will destroy Israel if it attacks.
JBC Energy analysts added that New York oil prices may have won a boost from comments by the head of the International Energy Agency, Maria van der Hoeven, who on Friday ruled out the need to tap into US oil reserves.
Commerzbank analyst Carsten Fritsch said oil prices were recouping some of the losses suffered Friday.
"The fall in price had been triggered by US plans to tap into strategic reserves," he added. Media reports have said the United States is considering the possibility of releasing extra oil supplies to help bring down crude prices, which it deems too high and thus a strain on economic recovery.
Analysts say such a move would give a boost to US President Barack Obama in his quest to win re-election later this year.