Oil prices up on lower US supplies


SINGAPORE–Oil prices rose in Asia on Thursday after a dip in U.S. stockpiles raised optimism about energy demand in the world’s top crude consumer during the winter season, analysts said.

U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for January delivery rose 56 cents to 67.94, while Brent crude for January gained 35 cents to US$70.27 in afternoon trade.

The U.S. Department of Energy said in its latest inventory report that crude stockpiles dropped 3.7 million barrels in the week ended November 28.

Analysts surveyed by the Wall Street Journal had predicted a rise of 600,000 barrels. Oil prices plunged after the OPEC cartel announced last Thursday it would maintain its output levels despite global oversupply. Prices fell to five-year lows Monday, with WTI hitting US$63.72 and Brent at US$67.53, before rebounding.

The commodity has fallen around 30 percent since late June, weighed by concerns of an oversupply and weak demand. The U.S. inventories report also showed refineries in the country ramping up processing, as the plant utilization rate rose to 93.4 percent of capacity from 91.5 percent the week before. The euro has suffered selling pressure ahead of the meeting, which is being watched to see if policymakers introduce monetary easing measures to kick start the region’s sluggish economy. Easing measures by central banks are closely watched by oil traders because of their impact on the U.S. dollar. A stronger greenback makes dollar-priced crude more expensive for buyers using weaker currencies, hurting demand.