Brent, WTI take separate paths amid Iran, spread unwind

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Benchmark Brent crude rose 1 percent on Friday amid dwindling expectations of an imminent breakthrough in talks over Iran's nuclear program, but U.S. prices ended weaker in choppy trade.

Heavy unwinding of the spread trade between European Brent and U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) drove Brent's premium to an 8-month high of $16, the widest since March. European gas oil led the complex with a 1.4 percent gain, rising for a second day after refinery glitches in the Rotterdam area.

Iran and six global powers struggled on Friday to overcome stumbling blocks holding up an interim deal under which Tehran would restrain its contested nuclear program in exchange for some relief from punitive sanctions.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said on Thursday he was committed to moving ahead with a tougher Iran sanctions bill, adding to uncertainty among some traders who had been betting on a drop in prices.

Brent for January delivery jumped about $1 to above $111 per barrel. U.S. crude ended down 60 cents at $94.84 per barrel, after posting its biggest gain in nearly two months on Thursday. The U.S. contract ended the week marginally higher, snapping six weeks of declines.

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