Oil rose on Friday as concerns over fighting in Iraq extended short covering from the previous session, but crude prices were still poised for a seventh month of declines, the longest rout on record.
A supply glut and OPEC's refusal to cut output has driven benchmark Brent and U.S. crude futures down 60 percent since June. Chart watchers as well as analysts tracking market fundamentals believe the selloff will continue for a few more months at least.
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A Reuters poll shows oil prices may post only a mild recovery in the second half of the year, with prices still averaging less in 2015 than during the global financial crisis. <OILPOLL>
Crude was up in early trading Friday in New York on renewed violence in oil producer Iraq, where Islamic State militants had struck at Kurdish forces southwest of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk.
Brent <LCOc1> climbed 46 cents, or about 1 percent, to $49.58 per barrel by 10:25 a.m. ET (1525 GMT), after a session high at $49.80. For the month, Brent was down about $8, or almost 14 percent. It had peaked at above $115 in June.
U.S. crude <CLc1> rose 80 cents to $45.33 a barrel, after reaching $45.54 earlier. For January, U.S. crude was also down about $8, or 15 percent. It had traded as high as $107 in June.
"The renewed fears over (Islamic State militants) and Iraq has allowed the market to come back a little today, but otherwise the trend is certainly pointing lower," said John Kilduff, partner at Again Capital, an energy hedge fund in New York.
Production from OPEC, or the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, rose in January to 30.37 million barrels per day (bpd), a Reuters poll showed, a sign that key members of the group were resolute about defending their market share.
Data this week also showed U.S. crude oil inventories had reached their highest levels since the 1930s.
A Reuters survey of 33 economists and analysts forecast that Brent would average $58.30 a barrel in 2015, down $15.70 from last month's poll in the biggest month-on-month revision since prices last collapsed in 2008-2009.
Brent has stayed within a band of $45-$50 since hitting a near six-year low of $45.19 Jan. 13.
(Additional reporting by Ron Bousso in London and Henning Gloystein in Singapore; Editing by Jason Neely, John Stonestreet and Bernadette Baum)