AFP, Singapore : Oil prices eased in Asian trade Thursday as investors locked in profits after they hit their highest levels this year on forecasts of stronger demand. Analysts said traders would be watching closely a meeting next week by the US Federal Reserve for more clues about its plans to wind down its massive stimulus for the world’s largest economy. New York’s main contract, West Texas Intermediate for March delivery, was down 21 cents at $96.52 a barrel in the afternoon after rising by $1.76 in closing US trade Wednesday. Brent crude for March dipped 21 cents to $108.06 after gaining $1.54. The International Energy Agency in its monthly report projected demand for crude would grow 1.3 million barrels per day in 2014, up from a previously forecast increase of 1.2 million. It said consumption accelerated at the end of 2013 as advanced economies, led by the United States, saw growth pick up. That came as the International Monetary Fund raised its global growth forecast for the first time in nearly two years- predicting 3.7 percent expansion in 2014, up from its earlier 3.6 percent estimate. It grew three percent last year. The optimistic outlook was fuelled by a solid recovery in the United States while other countries move away from austerity measures.