Benchmark crude for March delivery was up 37 cents at $91.23 a barrel at midday Singapore time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract settled 9 cents higher at $90.86 on Wednesday.
In London, Brent crude gained 28 cents to $102.62 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.
U.S. energy supply data gave mixed signals about the strength of consumer demand. The Energy Department’s Energy Information Administration said Wednesday that crude supplies rose less than expected last week but that gasoline inventories jumped more than analyst forecasts to the highest level since March 1993.
Meanwhile, supporters and opponents of President Hosni Mubarak fought running battles in Cairo on Wednesday, leaving three people dead and 600 injured, after the 82-year-old leader resisted protesters’ calls for his immediate resignation. Shipping through Egypt’s Suez Canal has not been disrupted, but investors are also concerned political instability could spread to oil rich countries in the Middle East.
Traders are also mulling a U.S. stock market rally, frigid winter weather, Europe’s debt problems and a U.S. January employment report scheduled for Friday.
“We don’t remember this many diverse factors competing so fiercely for oil traders’ attention,” energy consultants Cameron Hanover said in a report.
Trading volume was light in Asia as markets in mainland China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia and Singapore were closed Thursday for Lunar New Year.
In other Nymex trading in February contracts, heating oil rose 0.5 cent to $2.79 a gallon and gasoline gained 1 cent to $2.51 a gallon. Natural gas futures for March delivery were up 2.2 cents at $4.45 per 1,000 cubic feet.