SINGAPORE, Mar 7 (AFP): Oil prices continued easier in Asian trade Tuesday as the market adjusted to an apparent cooling of tensions over Iran and OPEC's assurance that it will not cut production quotas, dealers said.
New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in April, was down two cents to 62.39 dollars from its close of 62.41 dollars in the United States Monday, when it lost 1.26 dollars.
"The geo-political news from Iran is not as hot anymore," said Victor Shum, an analyst with Purvin and Gertz.
The possibility of a deal between the International Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iran has reduced the geo-political risk premium and removed the threat of a stoppage of oil from Iran, Shum said.
Meanwhile, another report adds: Singapore's oil rig manufacturers have received orders totalling more than two billion US dollars in less than three months this year as the search for energy sources intensifies, published data show.
The latest order announced Tuesday is for a semi-submersible drilling rig worth 480 million US dollars to be built by SembCorp Marine for PetroMena AS, a Norwegian firm under the management of Larsen Oil and Gas.
Construction for the "sixth generation ultra-deepwater rig" will start at the end of March and the equipment will be delivered no later than December 15, 2009, SembCorp Marine said in a statement.
SembCorp Marine, the second of Singapore's two oil-rig builders, said its total contract value stood at 849 million US dollars so far this year.
The firm's rig orders totalled 4.2 billion Singapore dollars (2.6 billion US) in 2005, up 102 per cent from 2004.
Global demand for oil rigs is "expected to be strong, attributed mainly to worldwide high utilisation and unprecedented high charter rates," SembCorp Marine said last month.
The market for conversion of ships into floating production vessels "will continue to be strong, driven mainly by high oil prices and exploration and production activities," it added.
Oil prices remain above 60 US dollars a barrel due to a confluence of reasons, including political developments in the oil-producing Middle East and in Nigeria, Africa's biggest oil exporter, industry analysts say.
Another report from Vienna adds: OPEC ministers were set to arrive in Vienna Tuesday with the cartel expected a day later to maintain its crude output quota owing to high oil prices, caused recently by tensions in Iran and Nigeria.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, which produces about 40 per cent of the world's crude, was seen as set to keep its production quota of 28.0 million barrels per day (bpd), where it has remained for the past eight months, when it meets Wednesday.
In an interview published Monday, Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Nuaimi said his country was against a production cut, citing a risk of higher prices.
OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest producer of crude, is joined by Kuwait in its call for the cartel to keep the oil quota unchanged.
Before leaving for Vienna, Kuwaiti Energy Minister Sheikh Ahmad Fahd al-Sabah told reporters that production should be maintained owing to high oil prices.
In recent weeks oil prices have been supported by tensions in Iran, the world's fourth largest producer of crude, and Africa's biggest oil producer Nigeria. Both countries are members of OPEC.
However crude futures eased in Asian trade Tuesday, remaining above 62.0 dollars per barrel, as the market anticipated no cut by OPEC and owing to an apparent cooling of worries over Iran, dealers said.
UN nuclear watchdog chief Mohamed ElBaradei said Monday he was hopeful of an agreement to ease Western fears about Iran's atomic program, as details emerged of a Russian package to avert punitive UN Security Council action.