(AP) Oil prices were steady Thursday a day after Israel launched an offensive against Islamic militants in Gaza as analysts downplayed the risk that the fighting poses to energy supplies.
Benchmark oil for December delivery was up 3 cents to $86.35 per barrel at midday Bangkok time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 94 cents to finish at $86.32 per barrel in New York on Wednesday after the offensive raised concerns about possible supply disruptions in the Middle East.
But Peter Esho, chief market analyst at City Index Group in Sydney, said real threats to energy supplies emanate from troubles in the Gulf region, since neither Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt or Syria are key producers of oil.
Conventional wisdom suggests that tensions in the Middle East overnight from Israeli's strike at Hamas should put upward pressure on oil prices, Esho said in a market commentary. But this is actually an exaggerated narrative and data over the past two years has shown otherwise.
Meanwhile global economic issues and the fiscal cliff in the U.S. are still in focus. Unless President Barack Obama and Congress reach a compromise, a series of expiring tax cuts and broad spending cuts will take effect in January, seriously impacting the world's largest economy.
Slower economic growth means less demand for fuels such as gasoline, heating oil and natural gas.
In other energy futures trading on the Nymex:
Heating oil rose 0.5 cent to $2.993 per gallon.
Gasoline rose 0.9 cent to $2.661 per gallon.
Natural gas rose 1.3 cents to $3.773 per 1,000 cubic feet.