Oil prices rise past 72 dollars in Asian trade

SINGAPORE, June 28, 2006 (AFP) – Oil prices climbed past 72 dollars in Asian trade Wednesday as the market focussed on the prospect for tight gasoline (petrol) demand during the North American summer driving season following refinery problems on the Gulf coast, dealers said.

At 11:25 am (0325 GMT), New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in August, was at 72.09 dollars per barrel, up 17 cents from 71.92 dollars in late US trade.

Brent North Sea crude for August delivery was flat at 70.98 dollars.

"The market (is) focusing on gasoline inventory in the US which is important for the summer season. Gasoline supply (is) be very limited — even if the US is importing — but consumption is not getting less," said Tetsu Emori, chief commodity strategist at Mitsui Bussan Futures in Tokyo.

Despite higher prices, US drivers seem unwilling to curb consumption.

"The price of gasoline is now 3.50 to 4.00 dollars a gallon, similar to that during the US hurricane season last year, yet drivers are still paying. They will not stop moving. I don’t think demand will go down," Emori added.