May 16, 2019 / 1:52 AM / 8 days ago

Oil extends gains into third session amid Middle East tensions

SYDNEY, May 16 (Reuters) - Oil prices edged up on Thursday to extend gains into a third straight session, as tensions in the Middle East stoked fears of potential disruptions to supply.

Brent crude futures were at $72.04 a barrel at 0110 GMT, up 27 cents, or 0.4%, from their last close. Brent closed up 0.7% on Wednesday.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $62.27 per barrel, up 25 cents, or 0.4%, from their previous settlement. WTI closed up 0.4% in the previous session.

Analysts said oil was drawing support from heightened tensions in the Middle East, with helicopters carrying U.S. staff from the American embassy in Baghdad on Wednesday out of apparent concern about perceived threats from Iran.

“(Middle East tensions have intensified), with the U.S. ready to apply pressure in Tehran and evacuating its embassy in Iraq due to security concerns,” said Alfonso Esparza, senior market analyst, OANDA.

However, a surprise increase in U.S. stockpiles was dragging on prices.

U.S. crude inventories rose unexpectedly last week to their highest since September 2017, while gasoline stockpiles decreased more than forecast, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said.

Crude stocks swelled by 5.4 million barrels, surprising analysts who had expected a decrease of 800,000 barrels.

Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Joseph Radford

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