US crude settles up; traders watch Sudan and Libya

Brent oil rose on Tuesday, hovering at a two-week high, as conflict in South Sudan threatened the country's oil output at a time when production cuts in Libya are already curbing global supply.

South Sudan's production has fallen by 45,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 200,000 bpd after oilfields in Unity state shut down due to fighting. Amid the uncertainty, traders bought back contracts to cover short positions ahead of the Christmas holiday on Wednesday, which drove U.S. and European prices up in light holiday trade.

U.S. gasoline futures supported oil prices, trading up 1.24 percent, after reaching a 15-week high in the previous session. Refinery snags in the United States and striking refinery workers in France thinned supply while demand remains robust.

In thin pre-holiday trading, Brent crude rose 40 cents to near $112 a barrel, matching its Dec. 6 high. U.S. crude rose 31 cents to settle at $99.22, above the 200-day moving average of $98.89.

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West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude, the U.S. benchmark, is up about 8 percent for the year, while the gap with Brent widened to almost $20 earlier this year, as more pipelines diverted oil from the contract's delivery point in Cushing, Oklahoma, reducing a supply glut.

The spread between the two oil benchmarks <CL-LCO1=R> was last trading at $12.79 per barrel, slightly wider than the previous session's settlement.

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