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Oil prices down in Asian trade

Attack by Islamic militants on an Algerian gas field kept prices supported

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I / Singapore January 17, 2013, 10:22 IST

fell in Asian trade today on profit-taking and the restarting of a British pipeline but an attack by Islamic militants on an Algerian gas field kept prices supported.

New York's main contract, for delivery in February shed 17 cents to $94.07 a barrel after the contract rose to its highest levels since September on data showing strong US demand.

A report by the US Energy Administration yesterday said oil stockpiles dropped by one million barrels in the week to January 11. Analysts had forecast a build of 2.1 million barrels.

for March delivery was down 94 cents to $109.67 in volatile trading that saw prices see-sawing. The February contract expired yesterday.

Analysts said oil prices were supported by rising geo-political concerns after Islamist gunmen killed two people and took 41 Western hostages yesterday in an attack on an Algerian gas field.

The gunmen said they were punishing Algeria, a member of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), for opening its airspace to French warplanes hitting Islamists in Mali.

"The latest news of the attacks put a geo-political risk premium into pricing," said Victor Shum, managing director of IHS Purvin and Gertz in Singapore.

The gas field, located close to the Libyan border, is jointly operated by British oil giant BP, Norway's Statoil and state-run Algerian energy firm Sonatrach.

Other analysts said the restart of a pipeline system in the North Sea also helped push Brent prices lower as it allayed supply concerns.

The pipeline, which services up to 27 oil fields, was shut yesterday following a platform leak.

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