Brent Crude Futures End Lower in Choppy Trading


Brent crude oil futures edged lower in choppy trading on Tuesday, as investors awaited new data after concluding that a deal between Iran and world powers would bring no immediate increase in crude supplies.

"The market is waiting to see how things develop with Iran. For the oil markets, this puts us in kind of a holding pattern," said Phil Flynn, an energy analyst with the Price Futures Group in Chicago, Illinois.

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"There are not a lot of headlines to drive us until we get new data," Flynn said.

Rising oil products prices stemmed losses in the crude markets.

Refined fuels, including ICE gasoil, RBOB gasoline and heating oil, finished the session up. Heating oil remained firm throughout the session as cold temperatures boosted demand at a time when inventories were expected to drop.

"It's cold ... and we're seeing a surge towards the commodity that's more in demand at this time of year," said Stephen Schork, editor of the Schork Report in Villanova, Pennsylvania.

Schork said gasoline supplies were at a surplus relative to the 5-year average, but distillates are at a deficit.

Brent outperformed U.S. crude oil, or West Texas Intermediate (WTI), for most of the session, pushing the spread between the two benchmarks to an 8-month high.

"U.S. inventories are still burgeoning and we're still getting that big disconnect" between the benchmarks' prices, said Flynn.

Front-month Brent crude fell 12 cents to settle at $110.88 a barrel. It plunged by as much as $3 on Monday, but recouped most of those losses to end 5 cents down.

U.S. oil fell 41 cents to $93.68 a barrel, below the 10-day moving average of $93.96.

The Brent-WTI spread settled at $17.20, having swung between an 8-month high of $17.46 and a low of $16.05 for the session.

Analysts noted that U.S. crude has traded in a narrow range around $92 to $96 since the beginning of the month. Brent, which is more responsive to geopolitical risk, has moved between $103 and $112 in November.

The nuclear deal, reached in Geneva on Sunday, halts Iran's most sensitive nuclear activity and suspends some sanctions imposed by the West, but caps Iran's exports at the current level of about 1 million barrels per day (bpd).

Iran is mobilizing more ships to store and transport oil, aiming to keep its fields working and mitigate losses of several billion dollars a month as sanctions remain in place for at least another six months, sources say.

Libyan oil workers, civil servants and private sector staff went on strike in the port city of Benghazi on Tuesday, protesting against deteriorating security a day after deadly clashes there between the army and Islamist militants.

With more Iranian oil unlikely to enter the market in the next six months, supply concerns continue to support Brent prices amid disruptions to oil exports from Libya that show little sign of easing.

U.S. crude futures extended losses by about 10 cents after industry group American Petroleum Institute (API) reported a 6.9 million barrel rise in crude oil inventories, far higher than the 600,000-barrel build anticipated by a Reuters poll of 11 analysts.

Gasoline stocks rose and distillate stocks fell by 1.7 million barrels, loosely in line with analysts' forecasts.

Investors are looking ahead to the more closely watched official U.S. Energy Information Administration data on Wednesday.

CME Group Inc said on Tuesday it had changed the contract expiration price of 10 New York Mercantile Exchange energy products and related instruments settled between May and October because of a technical glitch.