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Brent gains above $115 ahead of German ruling, Fed

Published: September 12, 2012 | 7:40 am
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Brent crude edged up for a fifth straight session on Wednesday, staying above $115 a barrel as investors remained cautiously optimistic a German court would approve the legality of the euro zone’s bailout fund.

Expectations that the U.S. Federal Reserve would announce a third round of bond buying on Thursday also supported oil prices, although investors declined to make big bets until the Fed confirms it will indeed act to stimulate the world’s top economy.

London Brent crude for October delivery, which expires on Thursday, was up 35 cents at $115.75 a barrel by 0638 GMT, its loftiest in a week. U.S. crude for October delivery gained 3 cents to $97.20 a barrel.

Ahead of the Fed’s decision, all eyes are on the German court ruling.

“If (the bailout fund) was ruled illegal, it would be a surprise, sending shares and the euro down sharply,” said Masaki Suematsu, energy team sales manager at Newedge Japan.

The dollar hit a four-month low against a basket of currencies on Wednesday. A jump in the greenback versus the euro could weaken dollar-denominated commodities like oil since it makes them more expensive.

Technical charts suggest Brent crude could target the September 4 high of $116.65, while U.S. oil may retest a resistance level at $97.37, a break above which would open the way towards $98, according to Reuters technical analyst Wang Tao.

“October (Brent) crude is likely to rise gradually helped by the usual short covering ahead of the expiry on the 13th, though some adjustments may take place as (the front-month) contract switches to November,” said Kaname Gokon, deputy general manager of research at Okato Shoji.


The U.S. government and OPEC offered differing outlooks for global oil markets on Tuesday, with Washington ratcheting up price forecasts for oil on stronger demand, while OPEC highlighted rising output from the exporter group.

But both stressed the possibility that a worsening European crisis could still drag down oil prices, warnings that may complicate deliberations over whether to tap into strategic oil reserves again.

The International Energy Agency (IEA), which advises major oil-consuming countries on energy policy, coordinates strategic stock releases by member states, though some analysts think the U.S. could act unilaterally or in concert with individual members if widespread agreement on a move cannot be reached.

OPEC production rose about 260,000 barrels per day (bpd) in August, the producer group said on Tuesday, as dwindling Iranian exports in the face of European and U.S. sanctions over its disputed nuclear program were offset by other nations in the 12-member group.

The U.S. government’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) on Tuesday raised its forecast for global oil demand growth and lowered non-OPEC oil production for 2013, but added that non-OPEC output is expected to increase enough to meet demand.

U.S. crude stocks rose 221,000 barrels last week, the American Petroleum Institute said on Tuesday, against expectations that inventories would be 2.6 million barrels lower.

The API data will be followed by more closely watched numbers from the U.S. Energy Department due at 1430 GMT. Investors were also looking out for the IEA’s monthly report on global oil markets later in the day.


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