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Crude claws higher, ends in the black as gas demand fears weigh

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Crude rose modestly on Thursday, as late day profit-taking on an extended losing streak momentarily outweighed the prospect of solid global supply and weak U.S. gasoline demand.

For much of the session, Brent and U.S. crude oil futures were pinned in a two-week downtrend, as easing geopolitical tension in Iraq and Libya decreased the risk premium from previous weeks. Yet bargain-hunting traders helped pull prices higher, even as the fundamental picture remained unchanged.

"The rally of the previous weeks was all on anticipation that there was going to be supply disruptions," said Gene McGillian, an analyst at Tradition Energy in Stamford, Connecticut. "You still continue to see some liquidation selling because of evaporating geopolitical risk, but the market is now starting to stabilize."

Brent crude rose 40 cents to under $109 a barrel, snapping a losing streak that lasted more than a week. It hit a low of $107.76 earlier, the weakest price since May 9. U.S. crude ending up 64 cents at $102.93 a barrel. The contract barely escaped its longest stretch of losses since July 1984.

The two benchmarks had climbed to a nine-month high of 115.71 for Brent and 107.26 for U.S. crude last month, as an Islamist insurgency in Iraq raised the specter of oil disruptions from OPEC's second-largest producer.

Concerns over oil shortages from Iraq have since eased, as fighting between Sunni militants and government forces has spared exports from southern oil terminals. Meanwhile, Libya's output has risen to 350,000 barrels per day due to an increase in production from the El Sharara field, where a protest ended earlier this month.

Fuel demand in the United States has been a let-down despite a gradual recovery in the world's largest economy, according to government data. Gasoline demand over the past four weeks was at 9.04 million bpd, down 0.4 percent from a year earlier, data from the Energy Information Administration showed on Wednesday.


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

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