Oil prices fall on profit-taking in Asia

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SINGAPORE– Oil prices eased in Asia Friday, as dealers took a breather from a rally in New York that was spurred by encouraging data on Chinese manufacturing and US jobs, analysts said.

New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in March dropped a cent to $95.88 a barrel in the afternoon and Brent North Sea crude for March delivery shed 22 cents to $113.06.

“The market is relatively quiet and settled after the rally at the end of yesterday with good numbers from China and the US,” said Jason Hughes, head of premium client management at IG markets Singapore.

Prices surged in US trade after official data showed jobless claims fell to 330,000 in the week ending January 19, a second successive drop.

The decline pointed to improvement in the jobs market of the world’s largest economy and oil consumer.

Earlier Thursday British bank HSBC released a survey showing China’s manufacturing activity in January hit a two-year high, adding to indications that the economy, a key global growth driver, has emerged from a recent slumber.

Crude markets were also being supported by “expectations that the vital Seaway pipeline could resume full capacity operation within a week”, after it had to cut capacity Thursday due to a bottleneck, Phillip Futures said in a report.

The pipeline, carries oil from Cushing, Oklahoma — the main oil terminal in the world’s biggest crude consumer — to refineries in the Gulf of Mexico.

The bottleneck had caused a build up in Cushing stockpiles.

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