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SINGAPORE, April 1, 2010 (AFP)
Oil prices were mixed in Asian trade Thursday after investors took profits following a surge near 17-month highs, analysts said.

New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in May, gained one cent to 83.77 dollars a barrel.

Brent North Sea crude for May eased 15 cents to 82.55 dollars a barrel.

“After the big increase last night, we can see some signs of profit-taking,” said Ken Hasegawa, an energy trading manager with brokerage Newedge Japan.

“I think the market volume will be very thin because of the (Easter) holidays and because of that prices are likely to fluctuate.”

The New York contract rose 1.39 dollars on Wednesday, peaking at 83.85 dollars, a level near October 2008 highs, before paring back gains on a report which showed a larger-than-expected build in US crude stocks.

Wednesday’s price rise was driven by a weakened dollar which makes dollar-priced commodities like oil cheaper for buyers using other currencies.

The US government’s Department of Energy (DoE) announced that crude inventories rose by 2.9 million barrels in the week ending March 26 beating market expectations for a gain of 2.1 million barrels.

Petrol reserves increased by 300,000 barrels last week while analysts had pencilled in a drop of 1.3 million barrels.

Analysts said Wednesday’s gains were also buoyed by an International Energy Forum meeting that pledged greater cooperation and more transparency in tackling oil price volatility, seen as damaging to economic recovery.

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