NEW YORK, Mar 18 (AFP): World oil prices dropped yesterday on profit-taking after a volatile week, which saw crude futures dip owing to high US crude stocks and then surge on tensions in major energy producers.
Prices also turned down after the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) issued a slight downward revision to its 2006 forecast for global oil demand.
New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in April lost 81 cents to close at 62.77 dollars a barrel.
In London, the price of Brent North Sea crude for May delivery slid 95 cents to 63.26 dollars a barrel. London's April contract had expired Thursday at 62.91 dollars per barrel.
OPEC now foresees an increase of 1.8 per cent to 84.5 million barrels per day (bpd) in global demand for next year, rather than the 84.64 million bpd it predicted in February.
The cartel attributed the small decline in its forecast to an expected contraction in US demand as well as pessimistic growth forecasts in Asian countries outside the OECD grouping of industrialised states.
Brent's May contract and New York's April contract had closed up more than a dollar Thursday as a massive US-led air assault in Iraq intensified jitters about global supplies of crude, dealers said.
Crude futures had won support this week on concerns that Iran the world's fourth biggest crude producer-may curb exports if hit by economic sanctions over its controversial nuclear programme.
Prices were being supported also by recent unrest in Nigeria, Africa's biggest producer of crude, which has led to a 20-per cent cut in the country's oil output.
Offsetting this support was data Wednesday that showed US crude inventories at their highest level for seven years.
US gasoline reserves, meanwhile, are also at a seven-year high-but are only slightly above their level at the same stage last year.
Gasoline demand is set to soar in the run-up to the US summer driving season, beginning in May, when American drivers take to the roads on annual vacations.