Oil prices ease ahead of Yellen testimony

SINGAPORE: Oil prices eased in Asian trade 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 April delivery, was down 32 cents at $102.27 in afternoon trade, while Brent North Sea crude for April was 28 cents lower at $109.24. 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 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 Wednesday showed commercial crude oil supplies rose only 100,000 barrels last week, one-eighth of what analysts expected.

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