Brent stems slide; US oil ends sharply lower on Fed jitters

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Brent crude oil futures turned higher on Friday in seesaw trading, as oil markets were buffeted by uncertainty about whether oil ports in eastern Libya will resume exports.

U.S. crude oil fell, pressured by expectations that the Federal Reserve could announce a pullback of its bond-buying program as early as next week. But prices came off session lows. The Fed's bond-buying, or quantitative easing, program, has supported riskier assets such as commodities and equities.

After indicating earlier this week it would end a seizure of three eastern ports, a group seeking autonomy for East Libya said on Friday it would negotiate with government officials on Saturday, but added that if its demands for a greater share of the oil wealth are not met by Sunday, the group would try to sell crude on its own.

Brent crude turned positive, trading up 10 cents near $109 a barrel, after falling more than $1 on Thursday. U.S. crude futures for January ended down 90 cents to settle at $96.60. The contract had gained $5 since the beginning of December.

Traders kept an eye on diplomatic developments between major powers and Iran. A lifting of sanctions on the OPEC producer's oil exports would increase global supply. Russia said on Friday that a new U.S. measure targeting companies and individuals for supporting Iran's nuclear program violated the spirit of the nuclear deal Iran reached with major powers last month.

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