SINGAPORE, Feb 13 (AFP): Oil prices fell in Asian trade today, continuing lower as concerns over Iran's controversial nuclear energy programme eased further against a backdrop of high US inventories, dealers said.
New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in March, was down 33 cents to 61.51 dollars a barrel from its close of 61.84 dollars in the United States Friday.
Crude oil prices have slumped to their lowest levels of the year after spiking at 69.20 dollars per barrel in New York on January 23, near the all-time highs of 70.85 dollars in August 2005 after Hurricane Katrina.
Ample stockpiles in the United States have eased worries of supply disruptions from Iran, the world's fourth-largest producer, should the standoff with the international community over its nuclear programme worsen further, dealers said.
The US Department of Energy's latest report showed reserves of distillates, used for heating and diesel fuel, totalled 136 million barrels in the week to February 3, 12.4 per cent above last year's levels.
Gasoline, or petrol, inventories amounted to 223.3 million barrels, 1.7 per cent above their level at the same stage last year.
Venezuela's pledge to keep supplying oil to the United States despite an ongoing political rift was also a relief to the market, dealers said.
Oil prices topped 66 dollars last week after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) voted to refer Iran to the UN Security Council over its controversial nuclear programme.
Tehran has responded to the Security Council referral by resuming uranium enrichment and stopping spot checks of its nuclear sites by the United Nations. The market is worried that Tehran may also decide to disrupt its oil exports.
The Islamic republic is the second biggest producer within the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and exports 2.7 million barrels of crude per day.