SINGAPORE : Oil edged higher in Asian trade Thursday as investors focused on the upcoming Senate grilling of prospective Fed chief Janet Yellen for clues on when the central bank will wind down its easy-money policy, analysts said. New York’s main contract, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for December delivery, was up 11 cents to $93.99 a barrel in afternoon Asian trade, while Brent North Sea crude for December gained 18 cents to $107.30.

The oil market has been closely following the Fed’s debate on when to scale back its $85-billion-a-month stimulus.

“Global markets are focused on clues on whether the Fed would start tapering before the end of the year,” said Sanjeev Gupta, head of the Asia-Pacific Oil and Gas practice at consultancy firm EY.

The onset of tapering will boost the greenback, making dollar-priced oil more expensive for countries using other currencies.

In remarks prepared for a Senate confirmation hearing Thursday, current US Fed vice chair Yellen signaled her support for continuing its monetary stimulus programme until the US economy grows more robustly.

“A strong recovery will ultimately enable the Fed to reduce its monetary accommodation and reliance on unconventional policy tools such as asset purchases,” she said.

“I believe that supporting the recovery today is the surest path to returning to a more normal approach to monetary policy.”

Her brief remarks prepared for the Senate Banking Committee, which must sign off on her nomination before the entire Senate votes on it, put her squarely in line with the central bank’s current expansive monetary policy.

Meanwhile, Gupta said uncertainty owing to supply disruptions in Libya provided support for Brent, the benchmark for European markets.

A Libyan oil official told AFP last week that production outages related to political protests had reduced output to 250,000 barrels a day, from 1.5 million barrels a day before the protests erupted in July.