UPDATE 8-Oil down for 4th day on rising North Sea output, Fed

Wed Aug 7, 2013 3:05pm EDT

Related Topics

* Crude at Cushing, Oklahoma down 9.8 mln bbls in 5 weeks

* North Sea restart, Iran comments ease supply concern

* Federal Reserve stimulus decision weighs on commodities (Updates with settlement prices, adds quote)

By Nicolas Medina Mora Perez

NEW YORK, Aug 7 (Reuters) - Oil slid for a fourth straight session on Wednesday, driven lower by an expected increase in North Sea crude output next month and by worries about how soon the Federal Reserve will end its U.S. economic stimulus.

Fed officials hinted the U.S. central bank may begin to taper its bond-buying programs in September, feeding worry about the outlook for oil demand. This offset supportive news of supply disruptions in Libya and a big inventory draw last week at the delivery point for benchmark U.S. crude oil futures.

"The market is choppy, it looks like we are still trying to consolidate between $103 and $108 a barrel after last month's rally" said Gene McGillian, an analyst with Tradition Energy in Stamford, Connecticut.

Brent crude fell 74 cents to settle at $107.44 a barrel, after falling by more than $1 per barrel to a low of $107.07 earlier in the session. Prices rose from around $100 a barrel at the start of July to a four-month peak above $110 on Friday.

U.S. oil also fell for the fourth consecutive session, losing 93 cents to settle at $104.37 a barrel, after hitting intraday lows of $104.16.

Brent's premium to U.S. oil widened 19 cents to settle at $3.07 a barrel, having touched intraday highs of $3.27 and lows of $2.15.

Gasoline futures fell 4 cents to settle at $2.87 a gallon, taking losses since July 19 to almost 30 cents.

SUPPLY DISRUPTIONS

Oil prices were pressured by growing supplies of Brent crude and by hopes that a new Iranian administration may be willing to enter negotiations with the West over Tehran's nuclear program. Shutdowns in key Libyan oilfields did provide some support.

Output of Libya's main crude oil grade, Es Sider, has been completely shut down since Tuesday, along with the fields producing grades Amna and Sirtica, following strikes at the Es Sider and Ras Lanuf terminals, Libyan and trading sources said.

The outage in Libya is one of the worst disruptions the OPEC member has seen in the last year, with exports down to about 425,000 barrels per day (bpd) from previous levels of more than 1 million bpd.

Elsewhere in the world, traders said planned maintenance in a key pipeline will support Brent crude throughout August. Still, the supply of North Sea crude oil that underpins the international benchmark will rise by almost 11 percent in September, weighing on prices.

The market was watching new Iranian president Hassan Rouhani a day after he said he was ready to enter "serious and substantive" negotiations over the country's disputed nuclear program. Western sanctions have cut Iranian exports by about 1 million barrels per day.

"It is a fair bet that progress on the nuclear issue will be made with gestures on sanctions, small at first but probably growing larger," said David Hufton of oil brokers PVM in London.

"It is the oil industry's version of tapering."

EIA REPORTS SMALLER THAN EXPECTED DRAWS

U.S. crude oil inventories declined by 1.32 million barrels last week, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday, largely in line with the 1.2-million-barrel reduction analysts forecast prior to the data.

The decline was smaller than the 3.66-million-barrel drop reported on Tuesday by industry group the American Petroleum Institute. The EIA also reported a small rise in gasoline stocks, in contrast to expected declines.

"We're going to call this report sharply neutral, said Phil Flynn, an analyst with Price Futures Group in Chicago.

"The expectations were right on, which shows the trade has a real good handle on supply and demand right now.

Crude stockpiles at Cushing, Oklahoma, the delivery point for U.S. oil, dropped by 2.2 million barrels to reach their lowest since March 2012.

Over the last five weeks, as pipeline bottlenecks have become unblocked and refineries have run at high rates for the summer driving season, the total stock draw at the delivery hub has been 9.8 million barrels. (Additional reporting by Anna Sussman in New York, Alex Lawler in London and Manash Goswami in Singapore; Editing by James Jukwey, Keiron Henderson, David Gregorio and James Dalgleish)

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