SINGAPORE, (AP) -Oil prices fell Monday despite news that three foreign oil workers had been kidnapped in Nigeria amid signs of escalating unrest in Africa’s largest crude producer.
Oil futures rose more than $1 Friday on a U.S. warning that Nigerian militants may be planning to expand their activities beyond the restive southern petroleum-producing regions. Scores of foreign workers have been kidnapped in the Niger Delta region since January in a dramatic spike of violence across the swampy area.
Over the weekend, police said an American oil worker kidnapped last month in Nigeria had been released. But on Monday, authorities said three men were snatched late Sunday in Port Harcourt, the main city in Nigeria’s unruly southern oil region.
Rivers State police spokeswoman Irejua Barasua said she could not immediately provide details of the captives’ identities, nationalities or employers.
Light, sweet crude for March delivery lost 28 cents to $59.13 a barrel in Asian electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange mid-afternoon in Singapore. April Nymex crude dropped 7 cents to $59.79 a barrel. Trading was quiet in Asia due to the Lunar New Year holidays.
April Brent crude oil futures on London’s ICE futures exchange lost 4 cents at $58.91 a barrel.
Meanwhile, Iran’s Oil Minister said Saturday the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries would not institute any further cut in its output ceiling at its March meeting in Vienna if the price of crude oil maintains its current upward trend.
“If the (price) trend remains as so, there will probably be no additional cut proposed over the 500,000 barrels a day that went into effect in February,” Kazem Vaziri Hamaneh said on the sidelines of an international refining forum in Tehran.
OPEC oil ministers will meet in mid-March in Vienna to decide the cartel’s oil output in the second quarter of the year. OPEC decided in December to cut production by 500,000 barrels a day from Feb. 1, which followed a cut of 1.2 million barrels a day in November in order to stem falling oil prices.
Heating oil futures Monday dropped 0.69 cent to $1.6665 a gallon while natural gas prices rose 6.7 cents to $7.57 per 1,000 cubic feet.