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Crude oil futures dip as surplus outweighs unrest in Middle East

Crude oil futures were steady to lower in mid-morning trade in Asia Tuesday as ample supply countered concerns over unrest in key Middle Eastern producer nations Libya and Iraq.

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At 11:48 am Singapore time (0348 GMT), March ICE Brent crude futures were down 31 cents/b (0.48%) from Monday's settle at $64.89/b, while the NYMEX February light sweet crude contract was 18 cents/b (0.31%) lower at $58.36/b.

Earlier concerns over supply disruptions that saw both markers rise on Monday were offset Tuesday by indications of ample inventory.

"Oil traders were quick to sidestep the Middle East supply disruption and refocus on the bearish oversupplied market conditions after the International Energy Agency just last week projected a 'solid base' of oil inventories," AxiCorp chief Asia market strategist Stephen Innes said in a note Tuesday.

"At the same time, the deluge of US shale oil production would help offset any unplanned oil supply outages," he added.

ANZ in a note Tuesday said it expected investors to view the disruption in Libya as relatively shortlived.

Libya's oil production from key southern fields was curtailed over the weekend by the Libyan National Army, threatening exports from the country's main terminal a day after its national oil company declared force majeure due to a blockade on two-thirds of its output, S&P Global Platts reported earlier.

Iraq also temporarily halted work at an oil field Sunday, according to media reports, which came as security concerns linger after the death of a top Iranian commander in Baghdad in a US attack earlier this month.

"The reaction from the market over the Libya export blockage appears more muted than the risk events with Iran or even Saudi Arabia," OCBC said in a note Tuesday.

"The oil market is probably of the opinion that the blockage is not expected to last for a long period and its risks are largely contained within the country with limited spillovers, hence the lackluster rally yesterday [Monday]," it added.

As of 0348 GMT, the US Dollar Index was down 0.1% at 97.335.