Oil prices rise in Asian trade

SINGAPORE (AFP) - Oil prices rose in Asian trade Friday, buoyed by hopes the US Federal Reserve will wait longer before scaling back its stimulus programme, analysts said.

New York's main contract, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for December delivery, was up 44 cents at US$94.20 a barrel in afternoon trade, while Brent North Sea crude for January gained 18 cents to US$108.46.

Prices tracked gains in Asian equity markets as investors welcomed testimony from Fed chief nominee Janet Yellen at her confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Banking Committee.

Yellen defended the bank's US$85 billion-a-month bond-buying programme, and rejected suggestions that it had generated fresh bubbles in property or stock markets.

Her comments "spurred expectations that any form of tapering would not occur anytime soon", said Ms Vanessa Tan, an investment analyst at Phillip Futures in Singapore.

The upbeat sentiment over a continuation of the easy money policy offset concerns over ballooning US crude stockpiles, indicating soft demand in the world's number one economy.

US inventories rose 2.6 million barrels in the week ended November 8, the US Department of Energy reported on Thursday, representing the eighth consecutive rise.

European benchmark Brent was being supported by uncertainty over Libyan supplies, Tan said.

A Libyan oil official told AFP last week that production outages related to political protests had reduced output to 250,000 barrels a day, from 1.5 million barrels a day before they erupted in July.