Oil hits 11-week high on strong equities, weak dollar
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Oil prices rose for a second straight session on Monday, closing at the highest level in 11 weeks, as U.S. stock markets rallied to a three-month high and as traders eyed ongoing turmoil in the Middle East.
The gains extended Friday's strong rally after supportive U.S. jobs data calmed concerns about a slowing economy and on hopes that Europe can address its debt crisis.
"Equities moved higher and the dollar is a little lower and that may have been enough to stop the early profit taking after Friday's big jump," said Gene McGillian, analyst at Tradition Energy in Stamford, Connecticut.
In London, Brent September crude rose 61 cents to settle at $109.55, the highest close for front-month Brent since May 16.
U.S. September crude also closed higher for a second straight session, gaining 80 cents at $92.20, highest for front-month U.S. crude since July 19.
Brent's premium against U.S. crude dropped to $17.35, from $17.54 on Friday.
Total crude trading volume was tepid, with Brent crude down 32 percent from its 30-day average and U.S. crude down 26 percent from its 30-day average, according to Reuters data.
At one stage in Monday's trading, prices were further boosted after a fake Twitter account, pretending to be from the Russian Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev, said President Bashar al-Assad of Syria had been killed or injured.
While many oil traders said the Twitter message was a blatant hoax, an assertion confirmed by a later message from the account's operator, oil prices initially rose as the rumor circulated around markets.
Violence in Syria and Iran's dispute with the West over Tehran's nuclear program continued to keep oil investors worried about the potential threat to oil supply in the region.
Ahead of weekly U.S. petroleum inventory data, U.S. crude stockpiles were forecast to have fallen 500,000 barrels last week, according to a Reuters poll. <EIA/S>
Distillate stocks rose while gasoline supplies fell, the poll also showed.
Expectations for more stimulus measures to support the debt-laden euro zone and the latest pledge by China, the No. 2 oil consuming country, to intensify its fine-tuning of monetary policy to support economic development also helped keep a floor under oil prices. <ID:ID:nL4E8J501W> <ID:L6E8J2BUX>
U.S. stocks hit a three-month high as traders bet that European Central Bank (ECB) plans to lower borrowing costs for Spain and Italy would work, adding to the bullish sentiment after Friday's strong U.S. July jobs additions. .N
Enbridge Inc (ENB.TO) said it plans to restart on Tuesday a pipeline that leaked more than 1,000 barrels of crude onto a Wisconsin field after receiving the green light from U.S. regulators.
The shutdown since late last month of Line 14, which carries crude from Canada to U.S. Midwest refineries, had lifted Midwest refined products differentials to the benchmark futures contracts last week. <PRO/U>
U.S. gasoline futures slipped slightly in seesaw trading, while U.S. heating oil rose 0.51 percent.
EYE ON THE STORM
Tropical Storm Ernesto strengthened in the western Caribbean Sea on Monday and was forecast to smack into Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula as a hurricane.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center's five-day forecast cone projects Ernesto to push back into Mexico after it crosses the Yucatan and enters the Gulf of Mexico, avoiding the oil and gas producing areas off the Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coast.
Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Florence dissipated into a remnant low pressure area without threatening land.
MIDDLE EAST UNCERTAINTY
The violence in Syria and Iran's dispute with the West over Tehran's nuclear program continue to keep oil investors worried about the potential threat to oil supply in the region.
Syria's prime minister defected to the opposition seeking to overthrow the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
The fleeing minister, Riyad Hijab, is from Syria's Sunni Muslim majority, like much of the opposition. While not part of Assad's inner circle, as the most senior serving civilian official to defect Hijab's departure dealt a symbolic blow to an establishment rooted in Assad's minority Alawite sect.
Iran, a close ally of Syria's president, plans to host a meeting of regional and other countries this week on ways to resolve Syria's conflict.
However, only countries with a "realistic" stance on the conflict will be invited to the meeting on Thursday, Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian was quoted as saying.
The report did not say which countries would be involved. Syria and Iran have accused Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia of backing rebels in Syria and fueling violence there.
Egypt branded Islamist gunmen who killed 16 police near the Israeli border as "infidels" and promised on Monday to launch a crackdown following the massacre that has strained Cairo's ties with both Israel and Palestinians.
Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood said on its website that the attack on a police station in Sinai on Sunday in which 16 policemen were killed "can be attributed to Mossad" and was an attempt to thwart Islamist President Mohamed Mursi.
(Additional reporting by Gene Ramos and David Sheppard in New York and Florence Tan in Singapore; Editing by Marguerita Choy and David Gregorio)
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