Oil prices edged lower on Monday after reaching an 11-month high late last week, as light post-weekend profit-taking was limited by concerns over U.S. fuel supplies, Nigerian crude shipments and North Sea maintenance.
London Brent crude, currently seen as a better indicator of the global market, eased 14 cents to $75.48 a barrel by 0637 GMT, within sight of Friday's $76.01 peak and near its all-time high of $78.65 a barrel one year ago on August 8.
U.S. crude fell 31 cents to $72.50 a barrel, still some distance from its record high of $78.40 touched on July 14, 2006.
Although news that Nigerian kidnappers had released British toddler Margaret Hill helped alleviate a shade of anxiety over stability in the world's eighth-largest exporter, analysts saw little immediate hope for ending 18 months of violence.
Kidnappings in Nigeria have intensified in the past one and a half years, while attacks on the oil industry have shut in some 611,000 barrels per day (bpd) of Nigerian production.
The release of the British girl has been a side factor in pushing down prices but the fundamental risks are still very much in the market, so prices will remain firm for a while, said Gerard Burg, an analyst at the National Australia Bank.
A one-month truce by the rebel group responsible for much of the violence directed at the Nigerian oil industry has recently ended and analysts say the militants would likely step up their activities to gain more power over oil revenues.
Oil prices have also risen to a series of multi-month highs amid expectations that rising demand from U.S. refiners returning from extensive maintenance could rapidly deplete inventories.
Valero Energy Corp. said it was restarting major units at its 245,000 barrels per day (bpd) refinery in Texas City, Texas last Friday afternoon after a brief shutdown.
Last week, inputs to U.S. refineries rose in every part of the United States, except for the West Coast, U.S. government data showed.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries sees no shortage of crude oil in the market, a senior Iranian oil official said in remarks published on Saturday, adding that prices had surged on the back of political issues and a lack of refining capacity.
Expectations that summer maintenance will reduce supplies of crude from North Sea oilfields have also helped boost prices, widening Brent crude's premium to the U.S. grade and putting second-month September Brent at a premium to other contracts.