SINGAPORE, Mar 14 (AFP): Oil prices were little changed in Asian trade today after a sharp rise overnight as the market refocused on global supply concerns over Iran and Nigeria, dealers said.
New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in April, was up two cents to 61.79 dollars a barrel from its close of 61.77 dollars in the United States Monday, when it had jumped 1.81 dollars in a rebound from a six per cent slide last week.
"There is no fundamental reason driving prices back up. Market participants felt that the 60 dollar level is an important mark and dropping below 60 is too much of a fall," said Victor Shum, an analyst with Purvin and Gertz.
"With lingering concerns over Iran, Nigeria ... the market is correcting upwards because it is focusing on fears in the geo- political realm," Shum said.
The oil market fears that Iran, the world's fourth-biggest producer of crude, could halt its energy exports if threatened with economic sanctions over its disputed nuclear programme.
Key members of the United Nations Security Council were to meet again Tuesday to seek common ground on the Iranian nuclear issue ahead of a meeting of the full 15-member body later this week to address Tehran's refusal to halt uranium enrichment.
Iran remained defiant. It insists its nuclear programme is peaceful and that it has the right under the Non-Proliferation Treaty it signed to conduct uranium enrichment.
London analysts at the Sucden brokerage said crude futures were "likely to remain volatile, reflecting anxiety about potential supply disruptions due to Iran's dispute with Western world powers over its nuclear programme."
Also fuelling concerns is the situation in Nigeria where violence between separatists and government forces has seen crude output cut by about 20 per cent.
"The only thing that is keeping the price of oil high is the threat of a loss of production from these two sources as the world does not currently have enough spare capacity to cover any major supply problem from each supplier," the Sucden analysts added.