SINGAPORE, Jan 24 (AFP): Oil prices continued to ease in Asian trade today on profit-taking after recent sharp gains, dealers said.
New York's main contract, light sweet crude for March delivery, was down 40 cents to 67.70 dollars a barrel from its close of 68.10 dollars in the United States Monday.
"Because the surge in prices last week was so strong, inevitably there is profit-taking," said Victor Shum, an analyst with energy consultancy Purvin and Gertz in Singapore.
He said prices fell back after comments by Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest exporter, that oil prices were too high and as natural gas prices in the United States fell.
Worries over security and political tensions in key oil producers Nigeria and Iran remain the biggest concerns for investors, Shum said.
"Nigeria and Iran are the main driving concerns ... the correction in the market today is likely to be limited because of lingering supply concerns," Shum said.
Unrest in Nigeria has led so far to lost production of some 200,000 barrels of crude per day and this, coupled with Iran's diplomatic wrangling with the West over its nuclear programme, sent crude prices soaring over the past week.
Wachovia economist Jason Schenker said that a further deterioration of the situation in Nigeria, or escalation of nuclear brinkmanship with Iran could push the price of oil to 70 dollars.
Crude prices hit a four-month high of 69.20 dollars a barrel Monday, just below the record 70.85 dollars seen following the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina on US Gulf Coast energy installations.