Oil rebounds in Asian trade but prices tipped to face downward pressure

SINGAPORE (AFP) - Oil prices rebounded in Asian trade Monday on bargain hunting and concerns over Iraqi exports after militants bombed a major pipeline north of the country.

However, analysts said prices still faced downward pressure due to easing demand and the return of normal Libyan oil production that would bolster supplies.

New York's main contract West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for February delivery was up 17 US cents at US$94.13 in mid-morning trade, while Brent North crude also for February rose 24 US cents to US$107.13.

WTI fell US$1.48 on Friday, ending the week down more than US$6.

"Everyone is talking about how this year is going to be better but if you look at the data from the bigger countries like (the) US and China, they are all trickling down slightly," said Kelly Teoh, market strategist at IG Markets in Singapore.

"You have all these countries that want to increase production but the demand is stabilising or flat at best," she told AFP.

The US Energy Information Administration's weekly stockpiles most recent report appeared at first glance a strong support for prices after commercial crude inventories fell 7.0 million barrels to 360.6 million in the world's biggest economy.

But the data also showed rises in product stockpiles such as gasoline, suggesting demand was not as strong as the fall in crude reserves implied, analysts said.

The easing of crude demand comes as Libya resumes normal production.

A spokesman for the Libyan National Oil Corporation told AFP last week that the 330,000 barrel a day El Sharara field is expected to resume normal output, after protesters had agreed to stop a strike.

In Iraq, militants bombed a major oil pipeline in the north Thursday, causing a fire and forcing pumping to be suspended, an official from the North Oil Company said but added that repairs were already under way.