Oil prices in Asia turn mixed after Obama speech

Oil prices turned mixed in Asia on Wednesday as US President Barack Obama's State of the Union address lacked dramatic announcements that could swing markets, analysts said.

New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in March, increased 12 cents to $97.63 a barrel in the afternoon while Brent North Sea crude for March delivery shed ten cents to $118.56.

"People were anticipating Obama's speech, but there were no dramatic announcements that could move markets one way or the other," said Jason Hughes, head of premium client management at IG Markets Singapore.

"It was very much as expected as he addressed issues like economic reforms," Hughes told AFP.

Obama used his speech to wager his second term on an ambitious bid to strengthen America at home by reigniting its economic engine, cutting gun murders and fixing immigration.

The president said the country must fix its gaping budget deficit and described the upcoming automatic spending cuts worth hundreds of billions of dollars, known as the sequester, as "a really bad idea".

The US Congress and the White House are seeking an alternative to the sequester, set to take effect at the beginning of next month.

Feuding Republicans and Democrats in Congress are under pressure to reach a deal to avoid the cuts, which could lead to thousands of jobs being lost and slashes to military spending.

The US is the world's largest oil consuming nation and the health of its economy is a key influence on global oil prices.

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