Oil prices fell back below 33 dollars a barrel here on Tuesday as the onset of milder weather in parts of the United States brought relief to a market plagued by supply concerns.
The price of Benchmark Brent crude for January delivery slipped to 32.81 dollars a barrel from 33.06 dollars at the close on Monday. Prices had risen as high as 33.45 dollars the previous session.
The main factor behind the fall in prices was the emergence of warmer weather in the US Northeast and parts of Europe, analysts said.
The "lack of cold temperatures is really letting prices slip back a little bit, particularly in the distillate market and more obviously in the heating oil" market, Prudential Bache trader Tony Machacek said.
However, a threat by Iraq to halt exports over a dispute with the United Nations over oil revenues, coupled with the likelihood of disruption to Nigerian production from a strike started on Monday, continued to weigh on the market.
The strike by workers in Nigeria, the world's sixth largest exporter, had not yet affected supplies significantly, a spokesman for the six major foreign oil companies in Nigeria told AFP on Tuesday.
But union leaders said that they had begun to mobilize their members. "We expect to have shown a real effect by the end of the week," Kenneth Narebor, general secretary of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association (PENGASSAN), said.
The market was thus eagerly awaiting the latest snapshot of US crude stock levels to be published late on Tuesday by the American Petroleum Institute to gauge how inventories had coped with the recent spell of cold weather.
"Initial expecations are of a small draw down in crude and distillate stocks," Machacek said. "If that is the case it probably won't have a major effect on the immediate price" -- LONDON (AFP)
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