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SINGAPORE, Jan 23 (Reuters) – Oil prices were little changed on Tuesday as traders weighed a host of conflicting supply and demand worries, from rising tensions in the Middle East to cold weather woes disrupting production in the United States.

Brent crude futures added 2 cents to $80.08 a barrel by 0702 GMT, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures (WTI) climbed 3 cent to $74.79 a barrel.

Both the contracts had settled about 2% higher on Monday, as a Ukrainian drone strike on Novatek’s Ust-Luga fuel export terminal raised supply concerns and drove up prices. Analysts say Novatek is likely to resume large-scale operations there within weeks.

While damage to loading berths at the Ust-Luga terminal only “briefly impacted exports,” the move raises the prospect of the Russia-Ukraine war “moving into a new phase where parties target key energy infrastructure,” analysts at ANZ Research said in a note.

In the Middle East, U.S. and British forces have also carried out a fresh round of strikes targeting a Houthi underground storage site and missile and surveillance capabilities used by the Iran-aligned Houthi group.

The attacks by the Houthis on vessels in and around the Red Sea region have disrupted global shipping and stoked fears of inflation. The group has said their attacks are in solidarity
with Palestinians as Israel strikes Gaza.

Some analysts also remained bullish on near-term market fundamentals because of these ongoing conflicts.


“Without any recession concerns, the impact of extreme weather on U.S. crude oil production and the escalation of geopolitical conflicts still support oil prices,” said CMC Markets’ Shanghai-based analyst Leon Li.

In the U.S., 20% of North Dakota’s oil output remained shut in due to extreme cold and operational challenges, the state’s pipeline authority said on Monday.

Capping price gains, however, are concerns over China’s sputtering economic recovery, which is raising worries about global oil demand given the Asian giant is the world’s biggest crude oil importer.

Chinese policymakers have rolled out a raft of measures to shore up the economy but domestic consumption remains tepid, leaving oil traders on edge about demand prospects.

“Given conflicting fundamental factors right now in WTI crude (market), the momentum factor is likely to be the main driver in setting the stage for oil prices in the short term,” said OANDA senior markets analyst Kelvin Wong.

WTI crude prices managed to close above their 50-day moving average on Monday for the first time since Oct. 24 last year. The bullish close followed a similar daily close above the 20-day moving average last Thursday, he added.


A Reuters poll showing that U.S. crude oil inventories were forecast to fall by about 3 million barrels in the week to Jan. 19 also limited price weakness. Distillate stockpiles were expected to drop last week, while gasoline inventories were set to rise. Official government data is expected to be out
on Jan. 24.

(Reporting by Emily Chow; Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Kim Coghill)