Oil prices climb, Brent close to $104

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World oil prices rose on Tuesday, with Brent crude close to $104 on unrest in the Middle East and robust Chinese demand, analysts said.

Brent North Sea crude for delivery in April gained 74 cents to $103.82 a barrel in early London trade.

It hit a two-year high above $104 Monday on growing concerns that Egypt-style unrest occurring in the oil-rich Middle East could disrupt the supply of crude to the West, traders said.

In Tuesday trade, New York's main contract, light sweet crude for March delivery, was up 36 cents at $85.17 a barrel.

A record price gap exists between New York's benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude and Brent due to abundant crude supplies in the United States, where the Cushing depot in Oklahoma is nearly full.

Prices are edging up steadily as demonstrators in various Arab states draw inspiration from pro-democracy protests that led to the ouster of leaders in Tunisia and Egypt. Unrest has followed in Iran, Yemen and Bahrain.

"While unrest in Egypt appeared to wane with the exit of president (Hosni) Mubarak last week, fresh protests regarding labour disputes have picked up. In addition, other countries in the region are also facing smaller protests," said David Hart, energy analyst at stockbroker Westhouse Securities.

"These issues, combined with strong growth in Asia, have continued to push Brent crude prices to multi-year highs while WTI remains under pressure from localised over-supply."


© 2011 AFP

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