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Oil ends lower as traders digest Iraq's widening violence

Construction workers specializing in pipe-laying work on a section of pipeline outside Watford City, N.D.
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Construction workers specializing in pipe-laying work on a section of pipeline outside Watford City, N.D.

Crude fell on Monday, putting it on track for the largest one-day decline in more than five weeks, as concerns waned momentarily that a Sunni Islamist insurgency in Iraq would cut the country's oil exports.

Oil prices rallied in recent weeks, touching nine-month highs last week. The rally has faltered as fears of slowing Iraqi crude exports have not yet been realized even in the face of insurgents' continued advance on Baghdad.

Brent crude fell 70 cents to $114, after falling as low as $113.86, it's biggest decline since May 16. U.S. crude for August delivery dropped 66 cents to settle at $106.17, after touching a low of $105.91 earlier in the session.

The deterioration of the situation in Iraq pushed Brent futures to $115.71 a barrel last Thursday, the highest level since Sept. 9, 2013. The rally has since lost momentum, as data showed Iraq's oil exports in June were near record rates at around 2.53 million barrels per day.

Iraq ships 90 percent of its crude exports from southern terminals, which are far from the Sunni insurgency.

"The supply news isn't really supporting oil prices - the only thing supporting them is the fear factor," said Carsten Fritsch, an oil analyst at Commerzbank in Frankfurt. "This reminds me of the Syrian conflict when the market spiked on worries about supply disruptions that never happened."

The conflict in Iraq has added about $3 per barrel risk premium into the Brent and U.S. crude oil market, according to Bill Baruch, senior market strategist at iitrader.com.

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