Oil Inches Up as Signs of Healthy Supply Tempered by Libya


Oil prices ended slightly higher on Monday as traders weighed renewed violence in Libya against broader signs of a global market well-supplied with crude.

Last week, North Sea benchmark Brent closed at its lowest in three months as easing tensions in Libya and Iraq mitigated fears of supply disruptions. But oil prices perked up a bit on Monday as violence flared anew.

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"More violence in Iraq and Libya raises some questions about their ability to keep production going," said James Williams, an energy economist at WTRG Economics in London, Arkansas. "But the fundamentals of supply and demand continue to be fairly balanced."

Fighting broke out between rival militias vying for control of the airport in Tripoli on Sunday, killing at least six people in the worst violence the capital has seen in six months. The United Nations announced on its website on Monday that it is temporarily withdrawing its staff from Libya.

Meanwhile, protesters have shut down production at the eastern Libyan oil port of Brega, state firm National Oil Corp (NOC) said on Saturday. No timetable was disclosed for resuming operations at the 43,000-barrel-per-day facility.

Brent crude gained 32 cents to settle at $106.98 A barrel. It had dropped to $106.21 earlier in the session, the lowest intraday price since April.

U.S. crude futures gained 8 cents to settle at $100.91 a barrel.

The spread <CL-LCO1=R> between the two benchmarks closed at $6.07.

Oil prices spiked to a nine-month high last month as an Islamist insurgency swept across Iraq. Crude futures have since pared gains, falling for three consecutive weeks as Iraq's main oil-producing centers in the south remained unaffected, and as Libya restored oil production in key facilities.

Libya's oil output has risen to 470,000 barrels and could increase further to full capacity of more than 1 million bpd, government officials said.

In Iraq, lawmakers struggled to break a political deadlock in forming a government to tackle the Islamist-led insurgency raging less than 50 miles (80 km) from Baghdad.

"The market is tired of going long and taking losses when nothing worse happens," said Richard Hastings, a macro strategist at Global Hunter Securities in Charlotte, North Carolina.


The market also kept an eye on talks in Vienna over Tehran's nuclear program.

Iran's oil supplies have been restricted by sanctions for several years, but an agreement could lead to a softening, or lifting, of those limits.

Negotiators have set a July 20 deadline for a deal, but diplomats say the two sides are deeply divided and assume the talks will be given another six months.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will meet his Iranian counterpart, Javad Zarif, for a second day in a row on Monday, a U.S. official said.

(By Lorenzo Ligato; Additional reporting by Rowena Caine in London; Editing by Christopher Johnson, David Evans and Peter Galloway)