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FED POLICY WEIGHS

Brent set for biggest drop in 2 months

Singapore, June 21, 2013

Brent futures held above $102 a barrel on Friday as the steep fall in the previous session gave investors an opportunity to buy, but a cross-market rout triggered by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke's comments on winding down stimulus capped gains.

Global equities, bond prices and commodities plunged in a deep sell-off on Thursday, and most markets extended their losses in early Asian trade on Friday. For oil, demand growth concerns following weak manufacturing data from the world's second-biggest consumer China added further pressure.

Brent crude slipped to as low as $101.88 a barrel and traded 33 cents higher at $102.48 by 0256 GMT. It settled down $3.97 on Thursday in its biggest daily drop since November.

U.S. oil was up 16 cents at $95.30. Both benchmarks were headed for their steepest weekly loss in two months.

"Ultimately, the United States being off the intravenous dip will be a good thing as it will give the economy a chance to stand on its feet," said Ben Le Brun, an analyst at OptionsXpress in Sydney. "But investors are looking at the near-term impact of a withdrawal in the stimulus. The weak China PMI numbers are also weighing on sentiment in oil."

China's factory activity weakened to a nine-month low in June as demand faltered, adding to data pointing to a sluggish economy and raising the chances the country could miss its growth target of 7.5 percent for this year.

Assets priced in the U.S. dollar, such as oil, also came under pressure as the greenback remained in demand on Friday, with the index up 1.4 percent for the week.

Both Brent and U.S. oil could slip about 4-5 percent from current levels, Le Brun said. Any upside will be capped at gains of about 2-3 percent, he added.

STEMMING LOSSES

But prices may be supported by concerns about a disruption in supply from the Middle East, with the violence in Syria threatening to engulf neighbouring countries.

Iraq warned that Syria's civil war is tearing the Middle East apart and Lebanon's president urged his country's Hezbollah movement on Thursday to pull its fighters out of the conflict.

Syria's turmoil is dragging its neighbours into a deadly confrontation between Shi'ite Iran supporting President Bashar al-Assad and Sunni Arab Gulf nations backing the Syrian rebels.

"The Middle East is still a clear and present danger to oil markets and prices," Le Brun said. "Tensions in the Middle East will continue to put a floor on prices.” – Reuters




Tags: Brent | Singapore | Stimulus | federal |

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