By Ben Rooney, staff reporterFebruary 28, 2011: 6:44 AM ET
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Oil prices held steady near $98 a barrel Monday, as political unrest in the Middle East continues to support prices.
The benchmark U.S. oil contract, West Texas Intermediate, for April delivery was up 13 cents to $98.01 a barrel.
Brent crude, the main European contract, was down 46 cents to $111.68 a barrel.
The oil market remains focused on the Middle East and North Africa, where popular uprisings have pushed out long-standing leaders in Egypt and Tunisia. In Libya — where protests against the rule of Moammar Gadhafi have entered a second week — the death toll has reached 1,000, based on an estimate from U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
U.S. oil prices surged above $100 a barrel last week, while prices in Europe hit a high of $120 a barrel. The oil spikes occurred as the unrest in Libya curbed production in the North African country, and investors worried that other oil exporting nations could follow suit.
But the frenzied trading lost momentum late last week, with prices holding steady Monday following a report that protestors in Libya are allowing oil shipments from certain parts of the country to resume.
A tanker was expected to depart from the northeast corner of Libya carrying 700,000 barrels of oil Sunday night, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing an official from Arabian Gulf Oil Company.
Meanwhile, investors were also watching developments in Oman, where Sultan Qaboos bin Said ordered the hiring of 50,000 citizens in the aftermath of weekend protests that left at least one person dead and 11 others injured, according to state-run media.
Oman, located on the southeast coast of the Arabian Peninsula, is bordered by Yemen, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The sultanate exported about 860,000 barrels of oil per day in 2010.
Originally posted here:
Oil holds near $98