Oil prices drift higher

World oil prices drifted higher in subdued trading on Wednesday as traders awaited the weekly snapshot of crude reserves in the United States.

Brent North Sea crude for delivery in March added 22 cents to $118.88 per barrel in afternoon deals in London.

New York's main contract, light sweet crude for March, gained 26 cents to $97.77 a barrel.

The US government's Department of Energy was due later on Wednesday to publish its report on American crude inventories for the week ending February 8.

The United States is the world's largest oil consuming nation -- and the strength of its energy demand is a key influence on the global oil market.

Crude futures had turned mixed in Asian deals on Wednesday as US President Barack Obama's State of the Union address lacked dramatic announcements that could swing markets, analysts said.

"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 base 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.