Oil prices higher in Asian trade

(AFP) - Oil prices inched higher in Asian trade Friday on upbeat United States corporate and economic news, although profit-taking limited gains, analysts said.

New York's main contract, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for delivery in August, rose one cent to US$108.05 (S$136) a barrel, while Brent North Sea crude for September was up seven cents at US$108.77.

WTI soared US$1.56 in New York Thursday, to end at its highest level since March 1, 2012.

"There is a little bit of profit-taking going on after the close of US equity markets," Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets in Sydney, told AFP.

WTI's big jump in New York accompanied similar gains on Wall Street after a sharper-than-expected drop in US jobless claims and an unexpected spike in regional manufacturing activity.

Desmond Chua, market analyst at CMC Markets in Singapore, said demand was also supported by improved use of railway lines and pipeline networks that unlocked a glut of supply in the US storage hub at Cushing, Oklahoma.

US crude supplies dropped 6.9 million barrels in the week to July 12, the third straight large drop in the midst of the US driving season when Americans take to the roads for their holidays.

Market sentiment in the US, the world's top crude consumer, was also lifted after a stream of quarterly corporate earnings reports beat analyst expectations.

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