Oil prices mixed in Asian trade

Oil prices were mixed in Asian trade on Wednesday as investors returned from a long weekend holiday in the United States and a chokepoint at an important US pipeline eased, analysts said.

New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in March, gained a cent to $96.67 a barrel in the afternoon while Brent North Sea crude for delivery in April dropped 24 cents to $117.28.

US crude rose "on reports of increasing oil volume through the Seaway pipeline," IG Markets Singapore said in a report, referring to the pipeline serving Gulf Coast refineries.

The Seaway pipeline has recently been troubled by distribution problems but plans to pump 295,000 barrels a day between late February and the end of May, media reports said.

Seaway is seen as a critical component in addressing a glut of oil at the bottlenecked US hub in Cushing, Oklahoma.

The pipeline's capacity was recently expanded to 400,000 barrels a day from 150,000 barrels, but the operator has encountered technical problems that have limited the volume.

Other analysts said stronger US stocks helped lift market sentiment. Monday was a holiday in the United States.

Hopes for an end to Europe's long struggles were given a fillip by the widely watched ZEW economic institute investor confidence index in Germany, which soared to 48.2 points in February from 31.5 points in January, its highest level since April 2010.