SINGAPORE–Oil prices dwelled near six-week lows Friday in Asia amid signs Western powers plan to release strategic crude reserves soon. Benchmark oil for May delivery was up 42 U.S. cents to US$103.20 a barrel at late afternoon Singapore time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract dived US$2.63 to settle at US$102.78 per barrel in New York on Thursday. Brent crude for May delivery was up 31 cents at US$122.70 per barrel in London. In other energy trading, heating oil was up 1.4 cents at US$3.18 per gallon and gasoline futures rose 1.5 cents at US$3.35 per gallon. Natural gas slid 2.6 cents at US$2.12 per 1,000 cubic feet.
French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said Thursday that there’s a “good chance” that the U.S. and Europe will agree to release some of their oil reserves. Investors are mulling how much the additional supply would lower oil prices, which have jumped from US$75 in October. “A strategic stock release of some sort seems highly likely over the next few months,” Barclays Capital said in a report. “A large part of a potential stock release is already being priced in and has been one of the key deterrents from prices moving higher.” Some analysts expect crude has peaked for the year as slower global economic growth undermines demand for oil. Capital Economics expects Brent crude to fall to US$95 by the end of the year and US$85 in 2013.