NEW YORK — Oil prices eased slightly in cautious trade Monday as investors kept a close eye on Middle East tensions and the eurozone’s economic uncertainties.
New York’s main contract, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) light sweet crude for delivery in September, closed at $95.97 a barrel, dipping four cents from Friday’s close and snapping a four-day rise.
Brent North Sea crude for delivery in October edged down one cent to settle at $113.70 a barrel in London trade.
The New York session lacked direction and volumes were relatively thin, said Phil Flynn, an energy analyst at Price Futures Group.
Traders were following developments in the eurozone, where Germany and the European Central Bank slapped down a Der Spiegel report that the ECB plans to limit the borrowing costs of debt-wracked eurozone countries, Flynn said.
New York oil prices, which have climbed sharply since early May, now seem slightly too high, said Rich Ilczyszyn at iiTrader.com.
“We need a catalyst to get the market going, unfortunately, like geopolitical risks,” he added.
Analysts at JBC Energy research group said “growing tensions in the Middle East and hints of new economic stimulus measures” were supporting prices.
Israeli saber-rattling about an imminent unilateral strike being prepared by the country against nuclear sites in major oil producer Iran had markets on edge.
Israel, like its close ally the United States, accuses Iran of seeking to develop an atomic arsenal.
Tehran insists its nuclear program is exclusively peaceful, while its military chiefs warn that they will destroy Israel if it attacks.
Flynn also said that traders were preferring to stick close to the sidelines ahead of the US Federal Reserve’s minutes of its last policy-setting panel, which will be scrutinized for signs of fresh economic stimulus.
The minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee’s July 31-August 1 meeting are slated for release Wednesday.
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