SINGAPORE, AP -Crude oil prices rose in Asian trading Wednesday amid expectations that midweek U.S. inventory figures would show a decline in domestic gasoline stocks on strong demand for motor fuel during the summer driving season.
Light, sweet crude for August delivery gained 38 cents to $73.92 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange as of mid-afternoon in Singapore. Gasoline futures rose 1.75 cents to $2.2845 a gallon.
September Brent crude futures on London’s ICE Futures exchange rose 51 cents to $74.87 a barrel.
Crude oil prices on Tuesday slid back to the level they traded at before fighting started between Israel and militants in Lebanon. The contract tumbled 2 percent to settle at $73.54 a barrel. The last time front-month Nymex oil futures settled below $74 was July 10.
Brokers attributed Tuesday’s sell-off to profit-taking across various commodities and concerns about a broader economic slowdown — in part because of high energy prices.
“As long as the price goes up, there will be some people who are worried about how it will affect consumption,” said Tetsu Emori, chief commodities strategist at Mitsui Bussan Futures in Tokyo. “But the current rebound is mainly due to short-covering ahead of the U.S. inventory data.”
According to a Dow Jones survey of 10 analysts, U.S. gasoline stocks are expected to fall by an average of 1.1 million barrels in the week ended July 14, continuing the previous week’s drop and reflecting seasonal trends.
Expectations for crude stocks averaged flat, while distillate stocks, which include heating oil and diesel fuel, were tipped to rise 1.3 million barrels.
Concerns about the fighting between Israel and militants in Lebanon still weighed on the market. Worries that the crisis could escalate into a war — and possibly draw Iran, a financial backer of Hezbollah and OPEC’s No. 2 supplier, into the conflict — lifted prices to an intraday record of $78.40 a barrel on July 14.
By early Wednesday, at least 242 people had been killed in Lebanon and 25 in Israel since fighting broke out July 12 between Israeli forces and Hezbollah guerrillas following its capture of two Israeli soldiers.
In other trading, heating oil prices rose 1.56 cents to $1.9990 a gallon. Natural gas futures rose 10.5 cents to $5.66 per 1,000 cubic feet.