SINGAPORE, Mar 15 (AFP): Oil prices eased in Asian trade today ahead of a weekly report expected to show an increase in United States crude inventories, dealers said.
New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in April, was down 38 cents to 62.72 dollars a barrel from its close of 63.10 dollars in the United States Tuesday, when it had risen sharply.
"We should see a retreat in prices after the US inventory data is released. That's because I expect a significant build in crude, in the range of five to six million barrels," said Dariusz Kowalczyk, a senior investment strategist with CFC Seymour in Hong Kong.
Those figures will confirm the market is well supplied with crude, he said.
Energy analysts at JP Morgan Chase Bank predicted the report would show a rise in US crude inventories of 7.2 million barrels and a fall of 2.5 million barrels in gasoline (petrol) inventories over the past week. Distillates, including heating oil and diesel, were seen falling 3.5 million barrels.
The Paris-based IEA put global oil demand growth in 2006 at 1.8 per cent, lower than the 2.1-per cent rise it forecast in February, in the face of high prices and sluggish demand in Southeast Asia.
"A look at fundamentals suggests that while there may be some justification for a moderation in prices, the road ahead is far from smooth," it said.
The market remains concerned at the situation in Nigeria and Iran but unless there are strikingly new developments, there is no additional pressure on prices.
"The geo-political risk premium is already fully priced at the level we closed at yesterday," Kowalczyk said.
"So unless there are any more updates in the Iran or Nigeria situations, I do not expect anymore upside today," he said.
The UN Security Council Tuesday agreed to hold a first formal meeting on the Iranian nuclear crisis Friday amid continuing wrangling over a draft statement urging Tehran to suspend uranium enrichment.