Business

Oil prices inch higher in Asia

SINGAPORE: Oil prices edged up in Asia Tuesday following an upbeat outlook by key producer Kuwait, while investors are keeping tabs on Greece’s troubled debt talks with its creditors.

US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for March delivery rose 44 cents to $53.22, while Brent crude for April gained 68 cents to $62.08 in afternoon trade.

Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said late Monday he was confident of reaching a deal with the eurozone on overhauling the country’s unpopular debt bailout programme in two days, despite crunch talks collapsing.

The new anti-austerity Greek government is aiming to win a six-month reprieve so it can renegotiate the terms of its 240 billion euro ($270 billion) bailout, which it says has damaged the economy.

But its 18 eurozone partners, led by Germany, insist that any change to austerity terms must be within the current programme, which Athens refuses to continue.

“If no deal is reached, another emergency meeting will reportedly be held on Thursday,” said London-based research house Capital Economics.

“But the two parties will surely need to publish a statement implying that some progress has been made in the meantime if they are to avoid a more adverse market reaction and convince the European Central Bank to allow Greek banks continued access to … funds,” it added in a commentary.

Analysts said dealers were also digesting comments by Kuwaiti Oil Minister Ali al-Omair that world crude prices have recovered “faster” than expected and recent gains will likely hold.

“I think it will last… it started holding gains now and hopefully, in the second part of 2015, we will see better prices,” Omair told reporters Monday.

Kuwait, a member of the OPEC cartel, is the world’s 10th largest petroleum producer.

Crude has been on a rollercoaster for the past two weeks after prices fell by around 60 percent between June and January.

Market sentiment has been bolstered by cuts in output by North American shale producers that have raised expectations of a reduction in the current supply glut. -AFP

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