Crude ekes out gains as oversupply fears compete with geopolitics

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Oil prices climbed on Monday as last week's steep drop attracted buyers, as investors shifted their attention from worries about swelling supplies to concern about ongoing violence in North Africa in the Middle East.

Last week, Brent slid 3.3 percent and the front month settled Friday at $104.84, its lowest since April. On Monday, oil fell early, then bounced off session lows as escalating violence in key-producing regions supported prices and shifted investor attention to continuing conflicts in Libya, Iraq and Ukraine.

"The market is trying to stabilize after we reached a four-month low last week," said Gene McGillian, an analyst at Tradition Energy in Stamford, Connecticut. "We still have those geopolitical hot spots and the market seems to be taking that into account."

Brent crude rose 60 cents to over $105 a barrel, bouncing off a session low of $104.52. U.S. crude rose 41 cents to settle at $98.29, after touching an session low of $97.43.

North Sea crude for immediate delivery has been at a discount to futures for the longest period since 2011. The chart formation, called a contango, indicates a well-supplied market.

In Libya, oil output dropped to around 450,000 barrels per day (bpd) from 500,000 bpd last week, but a spokesman for the National Oil Crop said oilfields were still secure despite clashes between rival factions in capital Tripoli. In Iraq, July oil exports rose to an average of 2.44 million barrels per day (bpd) from 2.42 million bpd in the previous month, despite suspension of shipments from major oilfields around Kirkuk due to fighting in the north.

A supply glut in West African and Atlantic markets dragged Brent down 3.3 percent last week, despite geopolitical tensions in Iraq, Libya and Ukraine that could disrupt oil production in the future.

North Sea crude for immediate delivery has now been at a discount to futures in a formation called a contango for the longest period since 2011, indicating a well-supplied market.

Brent crude rose 70 cents, hovering above $105 a barrel after falling $1.18 on Friday to $104.84 a barrel, its lowest settlement since April 2.

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edged higher by 30 cents to above $98 after ending last week at its lowest settlement since Feb. 6. The U.S. contract futures fell more than 4 percent last week in its biggest weekly decline since January.

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Prompt Brent has now been at a discount to later barrels, in a formation called a contango, for it's longest period since 2011, indicating a very weak market.

"Physical markets may be just starting to stabilize, but are still relatively weak," said Olivier Jakob at Petromatrix consultancy in Switzerland. "Brent is still in a contango."

Jakob said escalating violence in Iraq and Libya would continue to put pressure on the oil market in the coming week.

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