Oil turned lower in Asian trade Wednesday, but Brent crude stayed above $101 a barrel as the unrest in Egypt continued to weigh down investor mood, analysts said.
New York's main contract, light sweet crude for March delivery was down 18 cents at $90.59 in afternoon trade, erasing earlier gains as investors took some profit.
Brent North Sea crude for March eased 10 cents to $101.64.
The turmoil in Egypt, where massive protests are demanding the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, had been fuelling price rises because of fears of supply disruptions.
|Oil turned lower in Asian trade Wednesday, but Brent crude stayed above $101 a barrel as the unrest in Egypt continued to weigh down investor mood, analysts said|
While Egypt is not a major crude producer, the country is home to the crucial Suez Canal, which carries about 2.4 million barrels of oil a day -- roughly equivalent to the daily output of Iraq or Brazil.
Brent crude soared to an intraday high of $102.08 on Tuesday, its highest since late September 2008, at the beginning of the financial crisis.
"Concern over the situation deteriorating in Egypt is easing... However, (the situation) will still be a background factor affecting oil prices at the moment," said Yu Yingxi, a commodities analyst for Barclays Capital in Singapore.
More than one million people took part in anti-government demonstrations across Egypt on Tuesday, the eighth day of protests aimed at unseating Mubarak.
The angry revolt -- in which an estimated 300 people have died and more than 3,000 injured -- has sent jitters throughout the Middle East.
Investors are concerned that similar demonstrations could spread elsewhere in the oil-rich region. Protests in Tunisia have already seen the removal of the president there.
"After the unrest in Tunisia and Egypt, there is still a high risk of the troubles spreading to neighboring countries, including major North African oil producers Libya and Algeria," said Commerzbank analyst Carsten Fritsch.
"Although the turmoil has not affected oil shipments so far, the geopolitical 'risk premium' is more likely to increase further."