Oil prices lower in Asian trade as Iran ties thaw
Oil prices edged lower in Asian trade Thursday after an unexpected surge in US crude stockpiles and fresh signs of warming relations between the West and crude producer Iran, analysts said.
New York's main contract, West Texas Intermediate for delivery in November, was down 17 cents at $102.49 in afternoon trade, while Brent North Sea crude for November eased eight cents to $108.24.
The US Energy Information Administration said Wednesday that US crude reserves soared 2.6 million barrels in the week ending September 20. Analysts on average had expected a drop of 900,000.
"The surge in US crude inventories was not expected at all, and it has dampened oil prices along with the removal of the risk premium surrounding Syria," Desmond Chua, market analyst at CMC Markets in Singapore, told AFP.
Prices were also under pressure following fresh signs of thawing US-Iran relations, which could possibly lead to an easing of Western sanctions on the crude producer and allow it to export oil more freely.
Iran's economy has been crippled by a series of UN and US sanctions aimed at bringing an end to its nuclear programme, which the West claims is being used to develop nuclear weapons. Iran denies the assertion.
On Thursday US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif will join international talks on Tehran's nuclear programme, the highest-level meeting between the two countries since the Islamic Republic's 1979 revolution.
In an interview with the Washington Post published Wednesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said he hoped to reach an agreement on the issue within three months.