SINGAPORE, Feb 23 (AFP): Oil prices continued lower in Asian trade today as expectations of a build in US crude and gasoline stockpiles offset concerns about supply disruptions in Nigeria, dealers said.
New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in April was down 26 cents to 60.75 dollars a barrel from its close of 61.01 in New York Wednesday.
The US Department of Energy publishes its weekly inventory data Thursday, a day later than normal owing to the US Presidents' Day public holiday Monday.
Analysts expect stockpiles of US crude to have risen 700,000 barrels, with gasoline (petrol) up 800,000 barrels and distillates, which include heating fuel, down 1.4 million barrels.
The United States is the world's biggest energy consumer and its energy inventories are closely monitored by the market.
The fall in crude prices also came despite renewed jitters over supply disruption in Nigeria, Africa's biggest oil exporter.
Militant attacks over the weekend on energy giant's Shell Forcados oil terminal forced the firm to cut production by 455,000 barrels of oil per day (bpd), equivalent to almost 20 per cent of Nigeria's total output.
Nigeria, the world's sixth-biggest exporter of oil, produces light, sweet crude, which is easier and cheaper to refine than the heavy, sour crude produced by oil kingpin Saudi Arabia.
Elsewhere, the market was also keeping an eye on Iran, with analysts saying that tensions over that country's nuclear programme could lead to disruption of its oil exports.
Russia has said it hopes to persuade Tehran to create a joint enterprise that will enrich uranium for Iran on Russian territory, enabling Iran to restore a moratorium on enriching uranium at home.
However Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that his country's talks with Iran were not progressing "easily."
Iran exports 2.6 million bpd and is the second-biggest producer in the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries after Saudi Arabia.