SINGAPORE (Commodity Online) : World oil prices remained below $80 a barrel in Asian trade Thursday after reports of increase in US stockpiles.

Light sweet crude for February delivery was seen trading at $79.80 a barrel at 11.15 a.m Singapore time while Brent crude was at $78.49 a barrel at the same time.

On Wednesday, prices settled below $80 a barrel for the first time this year. Light sweet crude for delivery in February, sank $1.14 to close at $79.65 per barrel, after plumbing an intraday low of $78.37.

Brent North Sea crude for February shed 99 cents to settle at $78.31 after touching $77.04. The contract expires at today's settlement. The more actively traded March future gained 12 cents to $78.94 a barrel.

In other Nymex trading in February contracts, heating oil fell 3.25 cents to $2.10 a gallon and gasoline dropped 3.38 cents to $2.06 a gallon. Natural gas futures skidded 2.7 cents to $5.56.

US Energy department said in a report Wednesday, distillate fuel stockpiles rose for the first week in five and supplies including heating oil and diesel increased 1.35 million barrels to 160.4 million.

Commercially held crude oil stockpiles rose a second week to 331 million barrels even as refineries processed more, while gasoline inventories climbed to 223.5 million barrels, highest since March 2008.

Oil prices rose to a 15-month high near $84 a barrel earlier this week amid expectations a spell of bitter cold in parts of the U.S., Europe and Asia would boost demand for oil distillates such as heating oil.