UPDATE 1-Brent edges up towards $108 on supply concerns; stronger dollar weighs

Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen
Thursday, 9 Jan 2014 | 1:11 AM ET


* Libya says will take to court foreign firms buying oil from rebels

* U.S. crude stockpiles fall, but rise at Cushing delivery hub

* Dollar strengthens to seven-week high, weighing on oil

(Adds quote, updates prices)

SINGAPORE, Jan 9 (Reuters) - Brent crude rose towards $108 a barrel on Thursday, supported by continued concerns over supply from the Middle East and North Africa, but gains were capped by a stronger dollar.

Brent has traded in a tight range this week as investors balanced expectations of rising supply from Libya with worries over increased tensions between government forces and armed rebels in the North African country.

"Brent looks relatively stable at the moment compared to WTI," said Ric Spooner, market strategist at CMC Markets in Sydney. "Brent is hanging around its 200-day moving average at the moment, and that is creating some nausea for investors, who are looking for direction in the market."

Brent crude for February delivery was 35 cents higher at $107.50 per barrel at 0555 GMT, after settling 20 cents lower.

U.S. oil was up 29 cents at $92.62. The contract shed $1.34 to end at a six-week low on Wednesday as a large build in crude stockpiles at the contract's delivery point in Cushing, Oklahoma, weighed on the market.

While the Cushing stocks rose, total U.S. crude stocks fell by 2.7 million barrels in the week to Jan. 3, data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) showed.

Overall U.S. crude inventories fell for the sixth straight week, totalling 33.5 million barrels for the period, the largest six-week drop since October 1990.

Still, the commercial stocks remain near historical highs due to growing U.S. oil output.


Libya said Wednesday it will stop doing business with and take to court any foreign firms trying to buy oil from eastern ports seized by armed protesters.

The statement came after tensions built this week with rebels inviting foreign firms to buy crude from them and the Libyan navy firing at a tanker it said was trying to load oil illegally. That raised new worries about the country's exports despite a return of some of its production.

Brent prices fell as much as $6 per barrel last week, after news that Libya would restart its key El Sharara oil field.

The country is currently producing around 650,000 barrels per day (bpd) of oil, of which 510,000 bpd is being exported, Oil Minister Abdelbari Arusi told Reuters on Wednesday.

Brent prices have been supported by unrest and supply disruptions in Libya, South Sudan and Iraq in recent months.

"As the Libyan conflict is the least violent, and given its political and economic nature, a bargain solution is not entirely off the cards yet," analysts at JBC Energy consultancy said in a note.

Gains in Brent were limited by a stronger dollar, which hit a seven-week high against a basket of major currencies. A stronger dollar makes commodities priced in the greenback more expensive to holders of other currencies.

Investors will look to U.S. non-farm payrolls on Friday for signs of continued recovery in the world's largest economy, which may bolster speculation of imminent cuts in the Federal Reserve's commodity-friendly stimulus programme.

(Reporting By Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen; Editing by Tom Hogue)