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Egypt concerns push oil back above $100

Egyptian anti-government demonstrators chant slogans as they gather at Cairo's Tahrir square on the 14th day of protests. (AFP)


Crude prices were up in Asian trade on Wednesday on forecasts of a decrease in US stockpiles and as protests to oust Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak intensified, analysts said.

New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in March, rose 55 cents to $87.49 per barrel.

Brent North Sea crude for March delivery was up 29 cents to $100.21.

"Concerns (over Egypt's political crisis) still linger, which continues to support crude oil prices," said Ong Yi Ling, investment analyst for Phillip Futures in Singapore.

On Tuesday, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators flooded Cairo's Tahrir Square and towns across Egypt, in the biggest show of defiance towards Mubarak since the revolt began.

Traders fear that the situation in Egypt will affect crude oil supply in the Suez Canal.

The canal is a key shipping route cutting through Egypt, providing a sea link between Europe and Asia and allowing ships safer and faster travel between the two regions without having to sail around the African continent.

While Egypt is not a major crude producer, the canal carries about 2.4 million barrels of crude daily, roughly equal to Iraq or Brazil's output.

Forecasts of an "unexpected drawdown in crude oil inventories" made by the American Petroleum Institute (API) in its report published late Tuesday was also boosting oil markets, Ong said.

The API is predicting a 558,000-barrel fall in US stockpiles in the week ended February 5.