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Oil prices turn higher in Asian trade

19 June 2013, 07:17

Singapore - Oil prices turned higher in Asian trade Wednesday, as investors await the outcome of a US Federal Reserve meeting for clues on when it will begin scaling back its massive stimulus programme.

New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in July, was up 17 cents to $98.61 a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for August delivery added 12 cents to $106.14 in the afternoon.

Markets have been in turmoil for weeks on speculation the US central bank will announce a tightening of its $85 billion-a-month asset-buying programme, known as quantitative easing.

"Trading is quiet today as investors are looking to the US Fed meeting for direction," Desmond Chua, market analyst at CMC Markets in Singapore, told AFP.

"If the US Fed decides on a more gradualist approach to tapering quantitative easing, that is likely to push oil prices up," he said.

The US Fed's Federal Open Market Committee will issue a statement later on Wednesday after a two-day policy meeting, which will be quickly followed by a briefing from Fed chairman Ben Bernanke.

Some analysts say Bernanke would likely signal the Fed is close to tapering the purchases, but would temper that by arguing that a move would depend on conditions in the world's largest economy. A mixed bag of US data recently has pointed to an uncertain recovery.

Investors are also keeping an eye on the civil war in Syria, fearing that it could worsen and push the crude-rich Middle East region into a wider conflict.

Leaders from the influential Group of Eight nations on Tuesday called for a peace conference for the country and agreed to push for a transitional government that could include defectors from President Bashar al-Assad's regime.


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