Unrest in the Middle East pushed up prices for oil coming out of the region, while rising US inventories widened the Brent-WTI differential this week.

The US’ benchmark March West Texas Intermediate (WTI) contract was trading at $84.91 a barrel on 16 February, down around $2.00 from seven days earlier when it was valued at $86.90 a barrel.

In Europe, the March Brent contract had gained slightly, climbing to $102.48 a barrel from $102.10 a barrel.

The 12-crude basket of exports from the member states of the international oil cartel Opec rose by more than $2 a barrel to $99.0 a barrel on 15 February, the last date for which prices were available, from a week earlier.

Unrest in Yemen, Bahrain and Iran in the wake of the resignation of Egypt’s president Hosni Mubarak has stoked fears about the stability of the crude supply from the region. While some there have been no indications of protests spreading some of the largest producers such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait, fears of a contagion, and of disruptions to Iran’s significant exports, have led the Opec basket price to rise.

Crude stockpiles in Cushing, Oklahoma, rose to the highest levels since at least 2004, as sluggish demand for gasoline kept storage tanks full. The supply of gasoline was reduced by 0.3 per cent in the week ending 4 February, according to the US Energy Department, extending the drop in demand to six consecutive weeks.