Brent dips towards $109 after steep gains, Ukraine supports

Sun Apr 20, 2014 11:12pm EDT

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* Deadly gun attack in eastern Ukraine shakes fragile Geneva accord

* Technical problems delay reopening of Libya's Zueitina oil port

* Iran, world powers to start work on nuclear drafts next month

* Brent neutral in $109.17-$110.40 range -technicals ID:nL3N0ND08U]

By Manash Goswami

SINGAPORE, April 21 (Reuters) - Brent futures dropped towards $109 a barrel on Monday as investors took profits after steep gains, but uncertainty surrounding the crisis in Ukraine kept limited the decline.

Russia and world powers reached an agreement designed to avert a wider conflict over Ukraine, but the viability of the deal was bought into question with at least three people killed in a gunfight.

Oil and broader financial markets are watching the unfolding crisis that has already made ties between Russia, the world's largest oil producer, and the West more fraught than at any time since the Cold War, raising the risks from further economic sanctions.

Brent crude futures lost 44 cents to $109.09 a barrel by 0239 GMT, after rising to intraday highs of above $110 late last week, for the first time since early March. U.S. crude oil futures declined 25 cents to $104.05 a barrel, after ending 54 cents up.

"The market is being supported by Ukraine although we are seeing some profit-taking coming in after the recent rise," said Ken Hasegawa, a commodity sales manager at brokerage Newedge Japan. "We may see Brent rise further by $1 to $2 a barrel if the Ukraine crisis worsens, but it will retrace as the overall market is well supplied."

Brent gained 2 percent last week, and has risen nearly 5 percent since the low of $104.79 a barrel for the year touched earlier in the month with the unfolding of the in Ukraine.

Brent looks set to trade within a broad range of between $103 and $113 a barrel, caught between geopolitical risks and an improving supply outlook with expectations of higher shipments from Libya, Iran and Iraq, Hasegawa said.

The U.S. benchmark will rise towards $105 a barrel, and if it fails to break that key resistance level it will fall towards $100 a barrel, he said. Even though the contract is drawing support from an improving U.S. economy, rising U.S. production will cap gains in prices.

Oil investors are keeping an eye on the resumption of shipments from key north African exporter Libya.

SUPPLY OUTLOOK

Technical problems have delayed the reopening of Libya's eastern Zueitina oil export terminal. Two weeks ago, the government in Tripoli reached an agreement with rebels in the restive east to end an eight-month occupation of four oil ports which have halted vital exports.

Under the plan, the Hariga and Zueitina ports were due to open immediately while the larger Ras Lanuf and Es Sider terminals would resume oil exports within a month. But Hariga port, located in Tobruk in the far east, would be the only one to start operations due to technical problems at Zueitina.

Iran and world powers will begin work drafting a long-term settlement of Iran's disputed nuclear programme at expert-level talks in New York next month, the official state news agency IRNA reported on Sunday.

Brent looks neutral in a range of $109.17-$110.40 per barrel, and any break out of that range will provide direction, while U.S. oil is tending towards a fall to test support at at $103.19, according to Reuters technical analyst Wang Tao. (Reporting by Manash Goswami; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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