Oil prices edge lower in Asia, largely unaffected by Nigerian strike

Oil prices edged lower in Asian trading Friday, largely unaffected by failed talks between the Nigerian government and labor union officials to end a general labor strike in Africa's largest crude producer.

Light, sweet crude for August delivery dropped 11 cents to US$68.54 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange midmorning in Singapore.

The contract fell 21 cents Thursday to settle at US$68.65 a barrel after market supply concerns were alleviated on reports that a general strike in Nigeria did not affect oil exports from the country.

August Brent crude added 2 cents Friday to US$70.24 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

Nigeria's labor unions launched a strike Wednesday aimed at overturning government price increases on gasoline, among other demands that the government already has conceded. Both sides failed to bridge an impasse over fuel price hikes in their first meeting Thursday.

Union leaders said the strike would continue Friday, when they aimed to shut down basic services such as electricity or pipe-borne water - amenities enjoyed by few Nigerians in the vast, impoverished nation. Officials said the two sides would meet again, likely early Friday.

Oil receipts account for some 80 percent of Nigeria's total government revenue and the unions are threatening to close the taps of Nigeria's energy industry, the eighth-largest worldwide, sending crude prices toward nine-month highs on international markets.

In other Nymex trading, heating oil futures for July lost 0.26 cent to US$2.0221 a gallon (3.8 liters) while natural gas prices fell 0.2 cent to US$7.346 per 1,000 cubic feet.