* North Sea Forties crude loadings delayed again
* Spain reforms lift markets
(Adds investor data from CFTC)
By David Sheppard and Matthew Robinson
NEW YORK, Sept 21 Oil rose for a second straight
session in light activity on Friday as supply concerns and
economic optimism fuelled a rebound from a 7 percent slide
earlier in the week.
Brent crude topped $111 a barrel but posted a 4.5 percent
drop on the week due to a three-day rout that sent it plunging
from $116 to $108. Oil dropped from Monday to Wednesday on
rising U.S. inventories and Saudi efforts to tame prices.
The decline followed weeks of concern about the impact of
higher oil and fuel costs on the struggling U.S. economy, which
had prompted expectations the White House could tap emergency
reserves to cool off prices.
Oil scraped lows not seen since early August on Thursday,
before turning positive in a move that could be a sign the
market is establishing a new range as traders digest a third
round of U.S. quantitative easing, unrest in the Middle East and
North Africa, and delays in North Sea oil shipments.
"I'm not really sure we've seen a turnaround yet. Oftentimes
when the market sees a lot of liquidation pressure it rebounds
when that dissipates," said Gene McGillian, analyst at Tradition
Energy in Stamford, Connecticut.
"Going forward, I think the market has established a bit of
a new trading range from $90 to $100 (a barrel for U.S. crude)
and it's trying to find a value here and settle down."
Oil found some support from optimism over a move by Spain
toward reform measures in anticipation of a bailout package.
Equities markets rose.
November Brent futures settled up $1.39 at $111.42 a
barrel, before trading up to $111.70 in post-settlement
activity. Brent hit a low of around $107 on Thursday, its
weakest since Aug. 3.
On Friday, it edged back above its 50-day moving average
around $111.18, a technical indicator watched by traders.
Brent outpaced U.S. futures, sending the premium of the
international benchmark - which is more sensitive to North Sea
disruptions - to U.S. oil up 90 cents to near $18.50 a barrel.
U.S. futures ended down 6.2 percent for the week.
On Friday, November U.S. crude climbed 47 cents to
settle at $92.89 a barrel, off highs of $93.84. The October
contract for U.S. crude expired on Thursday at $91.87 a
barrel, having tested the 100-day moving average of $90.73.
Trading was light, with U.S. crude volumes on the New York
Mercantile Exchange nearly 30 percent below the 30-day moving
average and Brent trade more than 20 percent below that average.
Comments from a Gulf source that OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia
wanted lower oil prices and was willing to supply more oil to
the market set a bearish tone for much of the week.
The comments helped deflate expectations that a third round
of stimulus announced by the U.S. Federal Reserve last week
would send investors into oil and other riskier asset classes.
High prices and the economic downturn have helped drive down
U.S. fuel demand in recent years, and a report released on
Friday by industry group the American Petroleum Institute showed
U.S. oil consumption hit the lowest level in 15 years for any
Hedge funds and other large investors have, however, been
increasing bets on rising prices since June.
Data from the U.S. Commodity Futures Commission (CFTC) on
Friday showed speculators raised their net long futures and
options positions in U.S. crude oil by 18,006 contracts to
243,303 in the week to Tuesday. The net long position has risen
by 65 percent in past three months.
NORTH SEA, LIBYA
Ongoing export delays of North Sea Forties oil, the most
important of the four grades that form the Brent crude basket,
stirred concerns about availabilities.
Two more cargoes of North Sea Forties crude loading in
October were delayed due to maintenance at the
200,000-barrels-per-day Buzzard field, the largest connected to
the Forties pipeline. The field was shut on Sept. 5 for 28 days
of work, but traders now say that maintenance could be extended
by three to five days.
In addition, the market was watching unrest in OPEC member
Libya, Africa's third-biggest producer, that could further delay
already-slow efforts to return expatriate oil workers to the
country after last year's revolution.
Libya apologised on Thursday to visiting U.S. Deputy
Secretary of State William Burns for an attack on the U.S.
consulate in Benghazi last week in which U.S. ambassador
Christopher Stevens and three other Americans died.
(Reporting by Matthew Robinson and David Sheppard in New York,
Peg Mackey in London and; Luke Pachymuthu in Singapore; Editing
by Dale Hudson, Bob Burgdorfer and Leslie Gevirtz)