Tuesday, February 28, 2012

OIL FUTURES: Crude Futures Slip In Asia On Profit-Taking; Downside Seen Limited


Ga-Woon Philip Vahn

SINGAPORE (Dow Jones)--Crude-oil futures slipped Tuesday in Asia as some market participants took profits after last week's strong rally and others reassessed their positions as the end of winter approaches in the Northern Hemisphere.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange, light, sweet crude futures for delivery in April traded at $108.41 a barrel at 0657 GMT, down $0.15 in the Globex electronic session. April Brent crude on London's ICE Futures exchange fell $0.32 to $123.85 a barrel.

Some investors chose to book profits after the U.S. crude benchmark rallied to a nine-month high last week and a warmer weather outlook signaled the end of peak winter demand in the Northern Hemisphere.

"Physical demand will falter as we head into the spring season and major Asian refineries will be undergoing maintenance within the next several days," said a sales manager at Hyundai Oilbank's Dubai office.

Still, traders said the downside is likely limited because money managers continue to focus on falling Iranian oil exports and any upbeat U.S. economic data in coming days could prompt more risk investors to park their money in commodities and oil.

"Crude prices have hit overbought conditions but there is still plenty of upside risk to oil since Iran looks very determined not to give up its nuclear ambitions, while recent U.S. economic data indicate gradual economic recovery," said a sales representative at SK Innovation's Shanghai Office.

"While there were no major headlines today related to Iran, we still view the country's nuclear efforts as a latent bullish consideration capable of keeping this bull move alive despite the likelihood of further demand deterioration," Ritterbusch and Associates said in a note.

Nymex reformulated gasoline blendstock for March--the benchmark gasoline contract--fell 132 points to $3.1151 a gallon, while March heating oil traded at $3.2785, 79 points lower.

ICE gasoil for March changed hands at $1027.25 a metric ton, down $5.00 from Monday's settlement.

-By Ga-Woon Philip Vahn, Dow Jones Newswires; +65-64154149; philip.vahn@dowjones.com

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