Oil prices ease ahead of Yellen testimony
Oil prices eased on Thursday as investors await congressional testimony by the US central bank chief for fresh clues about the state of the world's biggest economy, analysts said.
New York's main contract, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for delivery in April, was down 16 cents at $102.43 a barrel.
Brent North Sea crude for April dropped 63 cents to stand at $108.89 a barrel in London midday deals.
Fed chief Janet Yellen will appear in front of the Senate Banking Committee later Thursday. 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," Desmond Chua, market analyst at CMC Markets in Singapore, told AFP.
Chua said investors expected that Yellen would repeat 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 Wednesday 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.
© 2014 AFP