Oil prices ease ahead of Yellen testimony
Singapore: Oil prices eased in Asian trade on Thursday as investors await a testimony by the US central bank chief for fresh clues on the state of the world's biggest economy, analysts said.
New York's main contract, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for April delivery, was down 23 cents at USD 102.36 in mid-morning Asian trade, while Brent North Sea crude for April was 15 cents lower at USD 109.37.
Fed chief Janet Yellen will give testimony to the Senate Banking Committee later today. Equity markets as well as oil prices were boosted after Yellen's inaugural testimony to House representatives on February 11 when she said the bank would continue its market-friendly, low-interest rate policies.
"The market is expecting her to remain confident," said Desmond Chua, market analyst at CMC Markets in Singapore.
Chua said investors were anticipating Yellen would reiterate that the Fed will continue to slowly pare back its massive stimulus programme unless economic conditions deteriorate significantly.
Oil prices also retained support from a bullish US stockpiles report, he said.
The US Department of Energy's weekly petroleum stockpiles report yesterday showed commercial crude oil supplies rose only 100,000 barrels last week, one-eighth of what analysts expected.
Supplies at the Cushing, Oklahoma, depot, which serve as a reference for WTI, fell 1.1 million barrels, pointing to potential improvement in demand in the world's largest crude-oil consumer.
Prices are also underpinned by concerns over political unrest in oil-producing Venezuela, as well as in Libya and South Sudan.