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NYMEX-U.S. crude set for monthly gain aided by geopolitical tensions

TOKYO, May 30 (Reuters) - U.S. crude oil futures were on course for their first monthly rise in three months, despite prices edging closer towards $103 a barrel on Friday, as geopolitical tensions in Ukraine and Libya supported the benchmark contract in May.

FUNDAMENTALS

* U.S. crude futures for July delivery fell 12 cents to $103.46 a barrel by 0011 GMT, even so, the front month contract was still on course for an 3.7 percent gain for the month of May.

* U.S. crude prices finished 86 cents higher on Thursday after government inventory data showed a sharp drawdown in gasoline that outweighed a build in overall crude stocks.

* U.S. crude stockpiles rose 1.7 million barrels last week, but a strong start to the summer driving season drained gasoline inventories by 1.8 million barrels, far more than forecast, the Energy Information Administration reported on Thursday.

* Libya stumbled deeper into chaos on Thursday uncertain over who runs the country after rival prime ministers both claimed legitimacy in a confrontation threatening to turn into violence among rival factions.

* Pro-Russian separatists shot down a Ukrainian army helicopter on Thursday, killing 14 soldiers including a general, as government forces pressed ahead with an offensive to crush rebellions in the east swiftly following the election of a new president.

* Iran's crude oil exports increased in May after a decline in April, according to sources who track tanker movements, moving above the level allowed by November's interim deal on curbing Tehran's nuclear program.

MARKETS NEWS

* The dollar eased on Thursday and finished down against other major currencies as traders shrugged off government data showing America's economy shrank at a 1 percent annual rate during the first quarter.

* The S&P 500 index climbed to its third record closing high in four sessions on Thursday as traders shrugged off data that showed the economy shrank in the first quarter and bet on improvement in the second quarter.

DATA/EVENTS

* The following data is expected on Friday: (Time in GMT)

0600 Germany Retail sales April

0900 Italy Consumer prices May

1230 U.S. Personal income April

1345 U.S. Chicago PMI May

(Reporting by James Topham; Editing by Michael Perry)