* Brent was between $96.75 and $119.17 a barrel in 2013
* U.S. crude traded between $85.61 and $112.24
(Adds API report)
By Anna Louie Sussman
NEW YORK, Dec 31 Brent crude fell on Tuesday,
ending 2013 almost unchanged following a year in which traders
balanced a spate of supply disruptions from Middle East and
Africa against surging output from the United States.
Weighed down by expectations oil shipments from some
shuttered Libyan ports would resume soon, Brent finished the
year just 31 cents its end-2012 level of $111.11 a barrel. The
international benchmark traded in a $22 range from $96.75 to
$119.17 this year, the narrowest band since 2006.
U.S. crude closed the year 7.2 percent firmer as traders
headed into 2014 eyeing improving demand, the end of the Federal
Reserve's monetary stimulus and the dramatic overhaul of the
world's largest oil market caused by the shale revolution.
U.S. crude traded within a $27 range throughout 2013, also
the narrowest band since 2006.
U.S. crude stocks fell by 5.7 million barrels last week as
imports dropped, while gasoline and distillate inventories rose,
data from industry group the American Petroleum Institute showed
on Tuesday. Analysts had forecast a decrease of 3 million
Brent's premium to U.S. crude, or West Texas Intermediate
(WTI) traded at just over $12 a barrel on Tuesday, down from
more than $19 a barrel at the end of last year. In July, the two
benchmarks reached parity and WTI briefly rose above Brent for
the first time since 2010.
"We saw quite a lot of drama in those spreads in 2013; that
was the trade of the year," said Katherine Spector, head of
commodities strategy at CIBC World Markets.
"It's still trying to find that equilibrium. I think we'll
continue to see WTI trade $10 to $12 under Brent."
Brent crude fell 41 cents on the day to end 2013 at
$110.80 a barrel, 0.3 percent lower on the year.
U.S. oil fell 87 cents on Tuesday to end at $98.42 a
barrel, after closing 2012 at $91.82 a barrel.
"There's been some optimism about the potential return of
supplies from South Sudan and Libya, and that's probably what's
helped Brent down," said Amrita Sen, chief analyst at
consultants Energy Aspects.
Violence in South Sudan has reduced crude output by about a
fifth to 200,000 barrels per day (bpd), but the South Sudanese
government and rebels loyal to former Vice President Riek Machar
agreed on a ceasefire on Tuesday as they prepare for talks to
end the bloodshed.
In Libya, where protests have slashed output to less than
250,000 bpd from 1.4 million bpd in July, the Sarir and Messla
oilfields are up and running. But the Hariga oil port they
connect with, which officials had said was to open soon, needs
to reopen before exports can resume.
In addition to the Libyan disruptions, unrest in Iraq and
tensions between Iran and the West over Tehran's disputed
nuclear program supported crude prices throughout 2013.
These factors have offset concerns over a weak demand
outlook in industrialized nations and a slowdown in consumption
in China, the world's second-biggest oil consumer.
Chris Tevere, senior strategist at Gain Capital, said the
Middle East remained a focus for 2014.
"The key concern is still 'Are there any further troubles
brewing in the Middle East?'"
(Additional reporting by Joshua Franklin in London and Manash
Goswami in Singapore; Editing by Angus MacSwan, Dale Hudson,
Andrew Hay, Marguerita Choy and Andre Grenon)