Oil prices crept higher here on Thursday morning in response to a big fall in crude stocks in the United States, the world's biggest oil consumer.
A barrel of benchmark Brent North Sea crude for April delivery was selling for $26.65, up from $26.37 at the previous close. In New York, the reference light sweet crude March contract dipped 28 cents a barrel to $28.53 on Wednesday.
US crude inventories drained down by 12.01 million barrels last week to 278.72 million barrels, the American Petroleum Institute (API) estimated on Wednesday.
But traders reacted cautiously to the figures, preferring to wait for further clues from official weekly estimations from the US Department of Energy published Thursdays.
"After such a big crude oil stock change, traders will be understandably looking from confirmation from the EIA (Energy Information Administration) report this afternoon," GNI brokerage analyst Lawrence Eagles said.
"But even if the API crude oil report report is confirmed, we cannot help feeling that they are a one-off rather than a sign of a crude shortage," he said in a research note.
Upward pressure on prices was offset somewhat by news that Iraqi oil exports rebounded last week from a record low, to reach 10.8 million barrels, the office administering the UN oil-for-food program said Wednesday.
Four of the six loadings were through the Turkish port of Ceyhan, through which the Iraqi flow of oil dried up during a dispute with the United Nations over the pricing formula for the oil-for-food program which led Baghdad to halt exports temporarily in December.—AFP.
©--Agence France Presse 2001.
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )