UPDATE 3-Brent crude firm near $109 on Libyan supply disruptions

David Sheppard
Wednesday, 30 Oct 2013 | 4:47 AM ET

* Libya exports in focus as down to 10 pct of capacity

* Investors await outcome of Fed policy meeting

* Higher-than-expected oil build weighs on U.S. crude

* Coming up: Weekly US fuel stocks data from EIA at 1430 GMT

LONDON, Oct 30 (Reuters) - Brent crude held firm near $109 a barrel on Wednesday as a bigger-than-expected increase in oil inventories in the United States was overshadowed by export disruptions in Libya.

Traders were looking ahead to comments from a U.S. Federal Reserve policy meeting that ends later in the day, but any impact on oil prices may be muted. The U.S. central bank widely expected to maintain its massive economic stimulus programme.

Brent crude for December delivery was up 15 cents at $109.16 a barrel by 0824 GMT, following a fall of 60 cents on Tuesday.

U.S. crude, also known as West Texas Intermediate (WTI), was 45 cents lower at $97.75.

The Brent-WTI spread expanded to around $11.41, its widest in a week.

A mixed bag of U.S. economic data over the last few days has reinforced expectations the Fed will not reduce its $85 billion of monthly asset purchases until March at the earliest.

"If (the Fed) acts as expected and there is no change in their position, it will likely support oil prices, but not cause them to be pushed up significantly," Tetsu Emori, a commodities fund manager at Astmax Investments, said.

Prices were underpinned by a sharp drop in Libya's crude oil exports, which boosted Brent by almost $3 a barrel on Monday.

Libya's exports have slumped to around 90,000 barrels per day, less than 10 percent of capacity, as protests have halted operations at ports and fields.

Libya's prime minister has spoken optimistically of a resumption of exports from certain ports in the west of the country next week, but a deal with protesters has proved elusive so far.

Italian energy major Eni, the biggest foreign producer in Africa, cut its production outlook for 2014 on Wednesday due to supply cuts in Libya and Nigeria. It previously guided investors to expect output in line with last year's.


Weighing on U.S. futures, crude inventories in the United States rose by 5.9 million barrels in the week to Oct. 25, statistics from the American Petroleum Institute (API) showed on Tuesday, exceeding analysts' expectations of a 2.2 million gain.

Crude stocks at the closely watched Cushing, Oklahoma storage hub, the delivery point of the U.S. crude oil future contract, rose by 2.2 million barrels, the API said.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration will release its own weekly oil inventory data at 1430 GMT on Wednesday.

"If we don't have any changes to (the uncertainty in) Libya or the tapering, I think just seasonally as we go into winter, runs will ramp up steeply in the United States, and these crude builds we're seeing now will start to draw down," said Tony Nunan, a risk manager at Mitsubishi Corp.

Investors will also keep an eye on a series of technical and diplomatic meetings on Iran's nuclear programme, which could pave the way for an easing of sanctions on Iranian oil exports.

Any increase may take some time, however, while the U.S. Senate is debating fresh sanctions aimed at further curbs of Iran's oil sales, an influential senator said.