SINGAPORE, Aug 16 (AFP): Crude prices fell further in Asian hours today as traders breathed easier over the Middle East after the UN ceasefire in Lebanon took effect, dealers said.
British energy giant BP's announcement Friday that it would keep pumping oil from its Prudhoe Bay field in Alaska was also a relief for the market after the sharp run-up in prices in recent weeks, they said.
New York's main contract, light sweet crude for September delivery, dropped 13 cents to 72.92 US dollars a barrel, down from its close of 73.05 in the United States, where it had slipped 18 cents.
Brent North Sea crude for delivery in September was steady at 73.80 dollars.
"The market is starting to wash out some of the fear premium from the Middle East," said Mark Pervan, a commodities analyst with Daiwa Securities in Melbourne.
He said BP's announcement that it would maintain about half the output at Prudhoe Bay, the largest oil field in the United States, meant there was "a lot more supply than expected coming from there."
The field normally produces 400,000 barrels per day of crude around 8.0 per cent of total US output.
Dealers said further sharp falls in crude prices could be limited by concerns over Iran, where the oil-rich Islamic republic has until August 31 to halt its uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities or face sanctions.
Iran is the world's fourth-largest crude oil producer and traders fear Iranian energy supplies will be affected if Tehran refuses to back down from international pressure to halt its nuclear programme.
"It is not sustainable because there is still Iran and its nuclear programme. That will probably get renewed focus," said Pervan.