BANGKOK – Oil prices rose Wednesday as energy traders distanced themselves from the debate over whether the U.S. central bank might begin to scale back its monetary policy.
Benchmark oil for July delivery rose 24 cents to $95.62 per barrel at late afternoon Bangkok time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 39 cents to close at $95.38 per barrel on the Nymex on Tuesday.
Investors have been trying to guess the timetable for the U.S. Federal Reserve to wind down its massive bond-buying program. The $85 billion-a-month asset purchases have helped keep interest rates at historic lows, prompting investors to turn to stocks and commodities in search of returns that outdo bonds.
That has led to some big gains on global stock markets, but also to volatility as uncertainty rises.
However, Julian Jessop of Capital Economics said in a market commentary that a possible pullback by the Fed wouldn't impact oil markets greatly, partly because the program "does not seem to have provided much support for commodity prices to begin with, so there may be little to lose when the asset purchases do end."
On Tuesday, oil prices were pressured by OPEC's disclosure that its members boosted production by 106,000 barrels a day in May. Some experts feel the world already has an ample supply to meet current demand.
"Oil prices have slid back after OPEC increased crude output in May while at the same time keeping its 2013 demand forecast unchanged on concerns about the demand outlook," said Michael Hewson of CMC Markets in an email commentary.
Brent crude, a benchmark for many international oil varieties, rose 48 cents to $103.44 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.
In other energy futures trading on the Nymex:
— Wholesale gasoline fell 0.6 cent to $2.8175 a gallon.
— Heating oil rose 2.3 cents at $2.8806 per gallon.
— Natural gas dropped 0.1 cent to $3.723 per 1,000 cubic feet.