Singapore: World oil prices traded higher in Asia on Friday, 31 August, ahead of a key speech by United States Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke, dealers said.
At 11:37am (0337 GMT), New York’s main futures contract, light sweet crude for delivery in October, was 21 cents higher at $73.45 a barrel.
Brent North Sea crude was up 17 cents at $72.07 a barrel.
Concerns over US economic health continue to affect oil trading, and dealers would be watching what Bernanke says in his speech, late Friday in Asian time, said David Moore, a commodities strategist with Commonwealth Bank of Australia in Sydney.
“It will be important in setting the tone... of adjusting the expectations of what the Fed may or may not do,” Moore said.
“The greatest concern from an oil market point of view is that US economic growth might slow and from that, oil demand might slow.”
Worries about oil demand in the US, the world’s biggest energy consumer, resurfaced Tuesday after a monthly survey showed US consumer confidence had fallen amid a deepening housing market crisis.
The equity markets will be on tenterhooks to see if Bernanke drops clues on possible interest rate moves, after fresh reports of US mortgage and credit problems played havoc with investor nerves on Thursday.
Crude futures also got a boost this week after a regular US inventory report showed unexpectedly large draws in gasoline and crude inventories, dealers said.