Oil prices inched above $105 a barrel Wednesday as violent uprisings in the Middle East kept traders nervous about possible crude supply disruptions.
By early afternoon in Europe, benchmark crude for May delivery was up 38 cents to $105.35 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose $1.88 to settle at $104.97 on Tuesday.
The April contract, which expired Tuesday, climbed $1.67 to end at $104.
In London, Brent crude was down 15 cents at $115.55 a barrel on the ICE futures exchange.
Oil has jumped 24 percent since Feb. 14 as violent protests rock the Middle East and North Africa.
In Yemen, an important transfer point for global oil supplies, parliament on Wednesday enacted emergency laws giving embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh new powers of arrest, detention and censorship after he warned that the country could slide into a civil war as the opposition rejected his offer to step down by the end of the year.
Violent protests also had spread in southern Syria, where as many as six people were killed by security forces in the southern city of Daraa.
In Libya, fighting between rebels and government forces has halted most of the country's 1.6 million barrels a day of crude production. Investors expect that an international military intervention launched to halt Libya's leader crackdown will likely prolong the shutdown of oil output from the OPEC nation.
"Oil production in Libya is likely to have fallen to a quarter of its normal level ... and exports have virtually come to a halt, taking over 1 million barrels of high-quality crude oil a day off the market," said analysts at Commerzbank in Frankfurt. "Given the damage to infrastructure, estimates imply that Libyan oil production could be affected for over a year. In the case of a longer civil war or acts of sabotage, this period could be much longer."
Residents said Wednesday that airstrikes caused Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's forces to withdraw tanks that were besieging the rebel-held city of Misrata, while the international coalition continued to enforce a no-fly zone to protect Libyan civilians.
Oil demand in China, the world's second biggest crude consumer behind the U.S., rose 10.1 percent in February from a year earlier, to the second strongest level on record, Platts reported Tuesday.
"Demand growth has shown little signs of slowing down," Barclays Capital said. "Indeed, led by a renewed surge in Chinese demand in particular, demand has continued to surprise to the upside."
The American Petroleum Institute said late Tuesday that U.S. crude inventories rose 970,000 barrels last week while analysts surveyed by Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill Cos., had forecast an increase of 2.0 million barrels. Inventories of gasoline plunged 7.9 million barrels and distillates fell 612,000 million barrels, the API said.
The Energy Department's Energy Information Administration reports its weekly supply data later Wednesday.
In other Nymex trading for April contracts, heating oil was up 0.08 cent at $3.077 a gallon and gasoline gained 0.7 cent to $3.0115 a gallon. Natural gas added 3.5 cents to $4.289 per 1,000 cubic feet.
Alex Kennedy in Singapore contributed to this report.