Oil prices hold on to multi-year highs
Singapore - World oil prices Friday stayed above multi-year highs Friday, supported by the continued tensions in the Arab world and the postponement of elections in Nigeria, Africa's biggest crude producer.
New York's benchmark West Texas Intermediate light sweet crude for May delivery rose 55 cents to $110.85 per barrel after touching its highest level in two-and-a-half years in US trade Thursday.
Brent North Sea crude for May delivery gained 38 cents to $123.05.
"Current levels for crude are primarily supported by the Middle East tensions and also the Nigeria elections," said Chen Xin Yi, a commodities analyst with Barclays Capital.
"The postponement of last's week parliamentary polls (in Nigeria) due to logistical problems does not bode well for presidential elections," Chen added.
Nigeria's electoral agency on Thursday announced a third delay in legislative polls in some parts of the country after it failed to sort out logistical problems in time for the weekend vote.
Political developments in Nigeria are important for the oil market because the country is Africa's biggest crude oil producer.
The market has been under pressure by tensions in the oil-producing Middle East and North Africa region, where long-time rulers are under threat by uprisings similar to those that deposed the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt.
Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi is battling to remain in power, with rebels controlling large parts of the country.
Gulf states have also piled pressure on Yemen's embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh, saying they expect him to quit following more than two months of bloody protests.
On Thursday, the International Monetary Fund warned that crude demand is outpacing the growth of global supplies, a situation that would lead to sustained higher prices over the long term.
"The persistent increase in oil prices over the past decade suggests that global oil markets have entered a period of increased scarcity," the IMF said in a report on the global economy.