* Spanish bond sale, German investor confidence boosts
* Brent/WTI premium narrows further as Iran, pipeline weigh
* API data shows surprise U.S. stock build, EIA report at
By Jessica Donati
LONDON, April 18 Brent crude futures held above
$118 on Wednesday as optimism in Germany and a successful
Spanish debt auction alleviated fears about the euro zone, but
the prospect of further talks between Iran and the West
continued to ease pressure on the market.
Worries about the euro zone debt crisis flaring up again
were eased after a Spanish bill auction was met with strong
demand on Tuesday.
But data on Wednesday showing bad loans at Spanish banks at
their highest level since October 1994 underscored the
challenges still facing the region's fourth-largest economy.
"Now that we have finished with Greece, the focus is now on
Spain. The growth picture is still mixed, with marginally more
positive data emerging from the U.S. than the EU," said
Thorbjørn Bak Jensen, an oil analyst at Global Risk Management,
citing strength in Germany as a sign the outlook for the euro
zone was improving.
Brent June crude was down 37 cents at $118.41 a
barrel at 0847 GMT, after settling little changed in the
previous session. Brent tumbled 2 percent at the start of the
U.S. May crude gained 15 cents to $104.35, after
settling at its highest close since April 2. The May contract
expires on Friday.
The IMF offered a cautiously optimistic view on global
growth, which it said is slowly improving as the U.S. recovery
gains traction and dangers from Europe recede.
"Traders' risk appetite improved after the successful debt
auction, IMF increasing global growth forecast and good data
from Germany," said Natalie Robertson, an analyst at ANZ.
Brent's premium to U.S. crude fell below $14 a
barrel as investors continued to price in news about a pipeline
reversal in the U.S. and the prospect of further talks between
six world powers and Iran.
Another meeting is expected to take place next month, after
negotiators said talks at the weekend had been constructive.
"The main increase in oil prices between January and April
was explained by tension in Iran. Prices are now moving down the
same way as talks about setting up a new meeting with Iran are
having the opposite effect," Bak Jensen said.
Investors were also still pricing in news early this week
the Seaway pipeline's crude oil flow may be reversed towards the
Gulf Coast as early as mid-May. The reversal is expected to help
alleviate a supply glut in the United States, where crude oil
stocks have been building up on the West Coast.
U.S. inventories have jumped over 21 million barrels over
the past four weeks and the bulk of the stock build was
concentrated on the West Coast, a weekly report from industry
group the American Petroleum Institute said on Tuesday.
In contrast, there was little change in Gulf Coast
inventories, and a drop in supplies on the East Coast the report