US crude ends big year on a soft note; Brent virtually flat


Brent crude fell on Tuesday, closing 2013 nearly unchanged following a year in which traders balanced a spate of supply disruptions from Middle East and Africa against surging output from the United States.

Meanwhile, U.S. crude ended the year up more than 7 percent as traders head into 2014 eyeing improving demand, the end of the Federal Reserve's monetary stimulus and the dramatic overhaul of the world's largest oil market caused by the shale revolution. The surge has narrowed West Texas Intermediate's (WTI) spread with the Brent, the international benchmark.

Weighed down by expectations oil shipments from some shuttered Libyan ports would resume soon, Brent was trading just cents below its levels at the end of 2012 near $111 a barrel. The international benchmark traded in a $22 range from $96.75 to $119.17 this year, the narrowest band since 2006.

Oil tanker at the Port of Long Beach, Calif.
Getty Images

Brent crude fell 30 cents to trade above $111 a barrel, after settling 97 cents lower in the previous session. U.S. oil ended down 87 cents at $98.42, up 7.2 percent on the year—its best performance since 2011. In December, WTI gained more than 6 percent alone.

Violence in South Sudan has reduced crude output by about a fifth to 200,000 barrels per day (bpd). In Libya, where protests have slashed output to less than 250,000 bpd from 1.4 million bpd in July, the Sarir and Messla oilfields are up and running. In addition to the Libyan disruptions, unrest in Iraq and tensions between Iran and the West over Tehran's disputed nuclear program supported crude prices throughout 2013.

--By Reuters

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