Oil above $104 on Middle East unrest

Oil above $104 on Middle East unrest

Singapore: Crude prices rose in Asian trade Thursday on continued investor concerns the unrest in Libya could spread to the oil-rich Middle East.

New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in April, gained 44 cents to $104.82 per barrel.

Brent North Sea crude for April delivery rose 56 cents to $116.50.

“It is the fear of the spread of turmoil to other Middle Eastern countries that is fuelling the further increase in prices," said Ong Yi Ling, investment analyst for Phillip Futures in Singapore.

She said there was enough supply from the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries and there was no need for the oil cartel to hold an emergency meeting before their scheduled session in June.

Oil prices have breached the psychological level of $100 a barrel on fears the unrest that has already toppled the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt will disrupt supplies.

The soaring oil prices have sparked fears of higher inflation that could dent growth as the global economy firms up its recovery from the 2008-2009 recession.

In Libya, a string of oil facilities in rebel-occupied Ras Lanuf was bombed by forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi on Wednesday.

The head of Libya’s state oil firm insisted the damage to infrastructure was minor but acknowledged that oil output was down more than two-thirds.

Western powers are pondering a range of options to resolve the crisis in oil-producer Libya, including prospects for military intervention via a no-fly zone and humanitarian aid.

“The focus is on whether the crisis in the Middle East will be resolved or continue," said Ong.