KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia–Oil prices edged above US$99 a barrel in Asia on Monday amid concerns that tensions in the Middle East could hurt crude supply but gains were tempered by jitters over Europe’s ratings downgrade. Benchmark crude for February delivery was up 48 cents to US$99.16 a barrel at late afternoon Kuala Lumpur time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 40 cents to settle at US$98.70 in New York on Friday. In other energy trading, heating oil was up 0.1 cent to US$3.06 per gallon and gasoline futures rose 3.1 cents to US$2.76 per gallon. Natural gas fell 14.3 cents to US$2.55 per 1,000 cubic feet.
Natalie Robertson, commodities analyst with ANZ Banking Group in Melbourne, said fears of supply disruption amid ongoing tension over Iran’s nuclear program and a crippling nationwide strike in Nigeria supported crude prices but trade was subdued by headwinds from the declining debt crisis in Europe. “The oil market is a bit mixed at the moment given all the uncertainties coming out of the Middle East as well as escalating issues in Europe,” she said. Robertson said there was a downward bias for crude prices given soft demand and weak sentiment in Europe but forecast a floor of US$95 a barrel before sentiment improves in the second half of the year.