SINGAPORE, Feb 15 (AFP): Oil prices continued below the benchmark 60-dollar mark in Asian trade today as the market sees US inventories growing while the US winter has turned out very mild, dealers said.
New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in March, was down 16 cents to 59.41 dollars a barrel from its close of 59.57 dollars in the United States Tuesday, the first time the contract closed below the 60- dollar level since December 29.
Analysts forecast a 1.5-million-barrel rise in gasoline stocks, a 1.3 million-barrel gain in crude oil inventories and a build of 900,000 barrels for distillates, which include heating fuel and diesel.
Mike Fitzpatrick, analyst at Fimat USA, said prices were driven lower by a combination of mild US weather which reduces demand for heating oil, abundant supply reports and a lessening of fears about a crisis with Iran.
New York crude futures topped 66 dollars on February 6 after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) voted to refer Iran to the UN Security Council over its controversial nuclear programme.
That, in turn, sparked concerns that Iran could retaliate by halting 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.
Iran confirmed Tuesday it had resumed limited uranium enrichment, a process that makes reactor fuel but can also be extended to make the core of a nuclear weapon.
Fitzpatrick said he remained cautious and suggested oil prices may bounce back at any new hint of fresh geopolitical trouble.