SINGAPORE, Feb 16 (AFP): Oil prices staged a modest bounce in Asian trade today after healthy US inventories led to a heavy sell-off in New York, dealers said New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in March, was up 37 cents to 58.02 dollars a barrel from its close of 57.65 dollars in the United States Wednesday, a two-month low.
"It's a rest stop. The market sold off considerably and can't keep going straight down. Traders are taking a breather," said Tony Nunan, of Mitsubishi Corp in Tokyo.
On Wednesday, crude prices touched their lowest level since December 19 after a report on US inventories showed better-than- expected reserves of US crude oil and refined products.
The US Department of Energy (DoE) said crude oil reserves rose 4.9 million barrels to 325.6 million in the week to February 10. The rise was well above the gain of 1.1 million barrels forecast by private economists.
Gasoline inventories increased 2.2 million barrels to 225.5 million, also ahead of the average analyst forecast of a rise of 1.4 million barrels.
Reserves of distillates, used for heating and diesel fuel, were up 900,000 barrels to 136.9 million, according to the DoE.
Ample supplies are helping the market push aside concerns about the Iranian nuclear dispute-which helped push prices nine per cent higher in January-with some traders betting the dispute will not lead to supply cuts.
Another report adds, World demand for crude oil is expected to rise by 1.89 per cent in 2006 to 84.64 million barrels per day, OPEC said yesterday in its monthly report.
The figure is 0.05 per cent lower than the estimated demand of 84.83 million bpd published in the January report of the Vienna- based Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, but higher than the average demand of 83.07 million bpd in 2005.
China's demand is forecast to increase by 6.0 per cent to 6.94 million bpd.
US demand will grow by 1.38 per cent to 25.81 million bpd, while that of western Europe by a slight 0.43 per cent to 15.64 million bpd, OPEC said.