LONDON: World oil prices steadied Thursday, following solid gains the previous day, as dealers digested a mixed US energy stockpiles report, analysts said.
European benchmark Brent North Sea crude for April delivery climbed 13 cents to $61.76 a barrel in London afternoon deals.
New York’s West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for April dipped 59 cents to $50.40 a barrel.
Crude futures had rebounded sharply Wednesday as traders focused on positive news of falling gasoline and distillates stockpiles in the United States.
The US government’s Department of Energy (DoE) said Wednesday that stockpiles of distillates, which include diesel and heating fuel, slid 2.7 million barrels last week, while gasoline reserves sank by 3.1 million, signalling solid demand.
The DoE also reported that crude inventories rose 8.4 million barrels in the week ending February 20 to a record 434.1 million barrels, more than double the increase expected.
Analysts said oil prices were also supported following upbeat comments by Ali Al-Naimi, the oil minister of major oil producer Saudi Arabia.
Oil demand is growing and the market has turned “calm”, Al-Naimi told reporters after a speech at a conference in the kingdom on Wednesday, Bloomberg News reported.
Saudi Arabia is the biggest and most influential member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which in November decided to maintain output levels despite a global oversupply.
The move had sent prices tumbling to six-year lows of just over $40 at the end of January, before recovering slightly following a drop in US oil rig utilisation and reduced future investments by oil majors.
Elsewhere, investors are also keeping a close watch on Greece’s debt crisis as well as rising violence in oil producer Libya.
“With temporary resolution of the Greek crisis and significant drop in production from Libya due to escalation of tensions, risk of sharp fall in prices during the next two weeks is limited,” said Sanjeev Gupta, head of the Asia-Pacific Oil & Gas practice at professional services organisation EY.