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US oil price closes above $100

US crude oil crept higher to close above $100 a barrel for the first time this year on Monday as traders awaited Federal Reserve chief Janet Yellen's testimony to Congress this week.

NEW YORK: US crude oil crept higher to close above $100 a barrel for the first time this year on Monday as traders awaited Federal Reserve chief Janet Yellen's testimony to Congress this week.

New York's main futures contract, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for delivery in March, settled at $100.06 a barrel, a gain of 18 cents from Friday's close.

Brent North Sea crude for March delivery, the European benchmark, dropped 94 cents to finish at $108.63 a barrel in London trade.

Markets were poised to hear what Yellen, who took the helm of the Fed on February 1, will tell Congress this week in the US central bank's semi-annual testimony on the state of the economy and the direction of monetary policy.

Yellen's first hearing will be on Tuesday in the House of Representatives, with attention on how she might view a second consecutive weak monthly jobs report released on Friday, and how that might affect the Fed's drawdown of its stimulus operation.

"The softness of the last two payroll reports probably is not enough to persuade the Fed to pause in its tapering program," said Ian Shepherdson of Pantheon Macroeconomics.

WTI prices also were getting support from expectations of a large decline in crude stockpiles at the Cushing, Oklahoma, terminal due to the January launch of operations of the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline, said James Williams of WTRG Economics.

The pipeline, which carries crude from Cushing to Gulf Coast refineries in Texas has a projected capacity of 700,000 barrels per day.

"Last week we had a significant draw at Cushing" he said, adding that "most are anticipating another draw."

Brent was under pressure on reports that Libyan crude oil production has risen after protesters allowed a key pipeline in western Libya to resume normal operations, according to Tim Evans at Citi Futures.

The estimated current production of 600,000 barrels per day remains far below capacity as the ongoing political stand-off in eastern Libya continues to limit output, Evans noted.

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