SINGAPORE, Feb 19, 2009 (AFP) - Oil prices were mixed in Asian trade Thursday ahead of a report expected to show a build-up in US crude inventories during the recession, dealers said.
New York's main contract, light sweet crude for March delivery, eased a penny to 34.61 dollars a barrel, within sight of the 32.40 dollars hit on December 18, when prices hit their lowest point in nearly five years.
Brent North Sea crude for April delivery was 36 cents higher at 39.91 dollars.
Sentiment remained weak, with investors still concerned about the state of the US economy, the world's biggest energy user, dealers said.
The US Federal Reserve in its latest forecast Wednesday said the US economy would shrink this year by 0.5 to 1.3 percent while unemployment is forecast to rise from 8.5 to 8.8 percent.
"The Fed released its latest economic projections overnight... the tone could hardly be called positive," said Jan Lambregts, head of regional research with Rabobank in Hong Kong.
The US Department of Energy was to publish its weekly report on American energy inventories later Thursday, one day later than normal because of a public holiday in the United States on Monday.
Analysts said the report was expected to show that inventories had risen for an eighth week in the United States as demand slowed during the recession.