Trader with his head in handsMarket volatility can give opportunities but also cause headaches
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Oil prices have continued to climb in Asian trading, hitting their highest levels since October 2008 after Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi refused to stand down.

There are concerns that the anti-government unrest in Libya will disrupt global oil supplies.

Stock markets in Asia were little changed after dropping on Tuesday.

Investors said they are gauging the impact of Libyan unrest on the global economy and corporate profit growth.

Libya is the world’s 12th-largest exporter of oil.

“Global investors are now trying to decide if the Middle East crisis means a major shift of geopolitical balance of power in the region,” said Masayuki Kubota of Daiwa SB Investments.

He added that there could be “more instability and possible further oil price rises”.

In Asian trade, US light sweet crude for April delivery was 2% higher at $95.45 a barrel. On Tuesday, the March contract had jumped almost 9% in value.

Brent crude was trading up 0.4% at $106.23 a barrel.

“The major underlying fear in the market is that these protests spread in the region to even larger producers like Saudi Arabia,” said Andy Lebow, a trader at MF Global in New York.

“While that might not look likely right now, even a hint of real problems there could send prices vertical.”

Shares were mixed in early trading across Asia.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 index was little changed on Wednesday despite the Ministry of Finance reporting the first trade deficit in almost two years.

Indexes in Singapore, Shanghai and New Zealand were also trading flat. Australia’s main S&P/ASX 200 index slid 0.2%. South Korea’s Kospi Index rose 0.2%.

This article is from the BBC News website. © British Broadcasting Corporation, The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.