• Oil prices down in Asia trade

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    SINGAPORE: Oil prices turned lower in Asian trade on Wednesday as investors stood on the sidelines with few fresh leads, but retained support following upbeat global economic data released a day earlier, analysts said.

    New York’s West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for May delivery eased 35 cents to $99.39 a barrel in afternoon trade and Brent North Sea crude for May was down 11 cents at $105.51.

    “We expect range-trading for Asian markets today. There is no important data out from Asia today, adding further to the lack of direction for trading,” French bank Credit Agricole said in a commentary.

    Oil prices had ticked higher in morning trade tracking rallies in Asian markets following the release a day earlier of upbeat reports on manufacturing in China, Europe and the United States.

    China reported an uptick in its official purchasing managers index (PMI) in March after hitting an eight-month low in February.

    Markit Economics said its eurozone PMI for March stood at 53.0. The figure is down from February’s 53.2 but the average reading over the first quarter as a whole was 53.4. A reading above 50 denotes expansion while anything below points to contraction.

    The US Institute for Supply Management also said its PMI hit 53.7 from 53.2 the previous month.

    Credit Agricole said “sentiment in the global market continued to be supported” following the robust economic data.

    Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets in Sydney, told Agence France-Presse investors were also awaiting the US government’s weekly oil inventories report out later Wednesday, which was expected to show a build of 2.5 million barrels.

    A rise in US stockpiles indicates weak demand in the world’s biggest crude consumer, which would in turn put downward pressure on prices.

    Investors are also continuing to monitor the tense situation in Ukraine, as NATO said Tuesday it had suspended all cooperation with Russia and questioned Moscow’s claim to have withdrawn troops along the Ukraine border.

    Russia provides about a quarter of Europe’s natural gas supplies, with about 80 percent of those exports travelling through pipelines in Ukraine.

    Russian troops are massed near the Ukrainian border, sparking fears about Moscow’s plans following its takeover of the Crimean peninsula last month.

    AFP

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