SINGAPORE, (AP) – Oil prices dropped in Asian trading Monday after no major disruptions to production were reported during the weekend presidential election in Nigeria, Africa’s largest oil producer.
Light, sweet crude for June delivery dropped 16 cents to $63.95 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange midmorning in Singapore. On Friday, the May contract rose $1.55 to settle at $63.38 a barrel before expiring, while the June contract settled at $64.11, up 79 cents.
The week before the election in Nigeria — a main supplier to the United States — was chaotic and bloody. At least 49 people have died in election-related violence since April 14.
Stepped-up violence since early 2006 in the unruly southern region where crude is pumped has cut Nigeria’s daily production by about one quarter, helping send global crude prices higher. More than 150 foreigners have been kidnapped over the past year. One analyst said there were hopes the election would lead to the resumption of normal levels of crude production in Nigeria.
“In the near term, the market is range bound and there is some expectation that the shut-in production in Nigeria will return — not immediately but maybe in a few weeks,” said Victor Shum of Purvin & Gertz in Singapore. “It may well be wishful thinking, but that’s part of the market sentiment.”
Turnout appeared low for Saturday’s presidential vote, which was marked by ballot-paper shortages in opposition strongholds, intimidation by thugs and open rigging favoring the ruling party of outgoing President Olusegun Obasanjo.
A top opposition politician Sunday called for the annulment of the presidential vote as observers of the U.S.-based International Republican Institute identified numerous voting-day irregularities, including ballot box stuffing and phony results.
But prices remained supported by other concerns, such as strong demand from China, the world’s second-largest oil consumer, which reported Monday that March crude oil imports rose 8.8 percent on year.
Analysts expect demand to remain strong if Beijing is unable to rein in the country’s sizzling economy, which grew 11.1 percent in the first quarter.
In other Nymex trading, heating oil futures declined 0.41 cents to $1.8284 a gallon while natural gas prices lost 10.7 cents to $7.274 per 1,000 cubic feet.