Oil prices up in Asian trade, Fed minutes awaited

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SINGAPORE: Oil prices rose in Asian trade Wednesday as investors await the release of US Federal Reserve minutes from its April meeting, while keeping an eye on the latest stockpiles data.

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The US benchmark, West Texas Intermediate for delivery in July, rose 56 cents to $102.89 in its first day of trading. The June contract ended Tuesday. Brent North Sea crude for July added 14 cents to $109.83.

Dealers are squaring positions before they scrutinize the minutes of a two-day Fed meeting that ended on April 30 for clues about the future of the central bank’s stimulus program and its assessment of the US economy, analysts said.

The minutes to be released later Wednesday “will be parsed for insights on the potential evolution of forward guidance and the assessment of labor market slack,” French bank Credit Agricole said in a note.

The release of the minutes comes a day after Charles Plosser, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, and a member of the Fed’s key policymaking committee, said business conditions could require the central bank to raise interest rates “sooner rather than later.”

However, William Dudley, also a key Fed policymaker and president of the New York Fed, said he preferred a slower pace of tightening.

“Speeches from Fed officials of opposing camps gave little clarity on future monetary policy,” said Desmond Chua, market analyst at CMC Markets in Singapore.

“We expect this issue to surface in the . . . minutes later tonight.”

Dealers are also awaiting the latest official US stockpiles report Wednesday from the Department of Energy, with analysts expecting an increase.

A rise in the stockpiles typically indicates weak demand in the world’s top crude consumer, putting downward pressure on global prices.

AFP

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