Sydney: Oil eased on Wednesday after closely watched data showed a surprise rise in US crude stockpiles, but prices were supported by mounting tensions in the Middle East.
Brent crude futuresÂ were at USD 70.90Â a barrel at 0100 GMT, down 34 cents, or 0.5 per cent, from their last close. Brent closed up 1.4 per cent on Tuesday.
US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futuresÂ were at USD 61.39 per barrel, down 39 cents, or 0.6 per cent, from their previous settlement. WTI closed up 1.2 per cemt in the previous session.
US crude stockpiles unexpectedly rose last week, while gasoline and distillate inventories increased, data from industry group the American Petroleum Institute showed on Tuesday.
Oil prices have drawn support after Saudi Arabia on Tuesday said armed drones struck two of its oil pumping stations, two days after the sabotage of oil tankers near the United Arab Emirates, while the US military said it was braced for âpossibly imminent threats to US forces in Iraqâ from Iran-backed forces.
The attacks took place against a backdrop of US-Iranian tension following Washingtonâs decision this month to try to cut Iranâs oil exports to zero and to beef up its military presence in the Gulf in response to what it said were Iranian threats.
Meanwhile, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) on Tuesday said that world demand for its oil would be higher than expected this year as supply growth from rivals including US shale producers slows, pointing to a tighter market if the exporter group refrains from raising output.