US crude prices have edged higher after traffic was halted on a key petroleum-industry waterway in Houston due to an oil spill.
US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for May delivery rose 14 US cents to $US99.60 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
European benchmark Brent oil for May delivery slipped 11 US cents to $US106.81 a barrel on the Intercontinental Exchange in London.
Investors were eyeing the shutdown of the Houston Ship Channel after a weekend collision between a barge and a ship resulted in the spill of about 636,000 litres of fuel oil into the waterway.
Clean-up crews were working to contain the spill while there were reports that at least one major Houston-area oil refinery was cutting output.
“It’s a key transit route for the crude and fuel,” said Bart Melek, head of commodity strategy at TD Securities.
“It is not a massive development, but it is a positive” for oil prices, he added.
Analysts attributed the drop in Brent prices to concerns over the outlook for the China following weak manufacturing data about the world’s second biggest oil consumer. HSBC ‘s flash purchasing managers index for March came in at 48.1, an eight-month low and down from 48.5 in February.
Anything below 50 indicates contraction while a figure above points to expansion.
Gene McGillian, broker and analyst at Tradition Energy, said the oil market was weighing concerns about uncertain economic growth with the chance that the Ukraine political crisis could disrupt supply, potentially lifting the oil market.
“The market is just treading water,” McGillian said.