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US oil ends at highest in nearly 9 months on Iraq, contract expiry

Gas is flared as waste from the Monterey Shale formation where gas and oil is extracted using hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in March 2014 near Buttonwillow, Calif.
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Gas is flared as waste from the Monterey Shale formation where gas and oil is extracted using hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in March 2014 near Buttonwillow, Calif.

Oil was mixed on Friday, as Brent fell from a nine-month high while West Texas Intermediate rallied, amid lingering concerns that violence in Iraq, OPEC's second-largest producer, might lead to supply disruptions.

Government-led forces were concentrated north of Baghdad on Friday, to strike back at Sunni Islamists whose drive toward the capital has prompted the United States to send military advisers to stiffen government resistance.

The fighting in the north continues to pose a risk to exports as foreign oil companies begin to pull out staff. However, the major oilfields south of Baghdad, which export at least 2.5 million barrels per day (bpd) of oil, remain unaffected.

Brent crude shed 30 cents to trade under $115 a barrel, after ending 80 cents higher at $115.06 a barrel, the highest settlement since Sept. 6, 2013. The contract added to last week's 4.4 percent gain.

The U.S. crude oil contract, which expires on Friday, jumped by 83 cents to settle at $107.26 a barrel. It rallied ahead of the expiry of the July contract, and recorded its highest close since September 2013.

Last week, both crude benchmarks rose more than 4 percent on worries about disruptions to Iraq's domestic oil supply. Fighting concentrated around Iraq's largest refinery, a 300,000 barrel per day facility in Baiji north of the capital, which was transformed into a battlefield by fighting between government forces and insurgents from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Government forces appeared to be still holding out in the oil refinery, mitigating concerns about export disruptions.

Brent crude fell for the first time since Monday, though it is still up 1.2 percent from the beginning of the week - its second weekly gain in a row.

--By Reuters. For more information on commodities, please click here.

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