Easing Up

SINGAPORE, April 21, 2006 (AFP) – Oil prices were lower in Asian trade Friday on profit-taking after recent sustained gains to record highs amid concerns over tight US gasoline (petrol) supplies and tensions over Iran’s nuclear ambitions, dealers said. At 11:15 am (0315 GMT), the June New York light sweet crude contract was at 72.96 dollars a barrel, well off the finish of 73.69 dollars in US trade Thursday when it had hit 74.48 dollars.

The May contract had expired Thursday at 71.95 dollars after hitting a high of 72.49 in intra-day trade.

Brent North Sea crude was at 73.28 dollars after a peak of 74 dollars in London trade Thursday.

“I think it’s down because it went up too high; it’s just profit-taking, the market can’t keep going straight up,” said Tony Nunan an energy risk manager for Mitsubishi Corp in Tokyo.

“Even though we hit above the 70s, at these high levels, the market can go up or down a few dollars with the same fundamentals,” he added.

Worries over a possible US-Iran conflict over Tehran’s nuclear program had driven up prices in recent days.

Dealers said concerns over US gasoline supplies, another factor pushing up prices this week, may have calmed a little as high prices pegged back demand ahead of the American