* IEA says oil demand stronger than expected, stocks down
* U.S crude oil slips from four-month highs
* Libya protesters shut gas and oil pipelines from Wafa
(Updates prices, changes byline)
By Anna Louie Sussman
NEW YORK, Feb 13 Brent crude oil futures prices
edged lower on Thursday, pressured by a forecast dip in demand
during refinery maintenance season and a rise in jobless claims
in the United States, the world's largest oil consumer.
The poor jobless data was compounded by weak U.S. retail
sales data suggesting that consumers used their money toward
heating fuel this year amid a record cold winter. The data
pressured the U.S. stock market and weighed on oil prices.
"Any negative information coming out of the U.S. will send a
demand destruction signal to the market which will cause prices
to pull back temporarily," said Michael Weis, commodity analyst
with energy consultancy Schneider Electric in Louisville,
Brent's losses were limited by a report from the
International Energy Agency (IEA), which said inventories in the
developed world fell 1.5 million barrels per day (bpd) in the
last three months of 2013 in the steepest quarterly decline
Both contracts slightly pared losses after a report that BP
declared force majeure on Angolan Plutonio crude exports after
damage to a hose, and production has been cut back. The Plutonio
stream is scheduled to export 179,000 bpd in February, according
to loading programs provided by trading sources.
U.S. crude edged slightly higher towards the close of the
session on the back of rising heating oil prices,
analysts said, before turning negative just ahead of the
Heating oil futures rose 1.8 cents, or 0.6 percent, by 2:37
p.m. EDT (1937 GMT).
"The weather is having a push-pull effect, with heating oil
up and crude a little soft," said John Kilduff, a partner at
Again Capital, LLC in New York.
Brent crude oil futures for March delivery, which
expire on Thursday, fell by 6 cents to settle at $108.73 a
barrel, after closing up 11 cents in the previous session. The
April contract rose 13 cents to $108.48.
U.S. crude, also known as West Texas Intermediate
(WTI), lost 2 cents to close at $100.35 barrel, having dipped as
low as $99.40 a barrel earlier in the session, below the 200-day
moving average of $99.51.
U.S. crude oil had traded as high as $101.38 on Wednesday,
its strongest since Oct. 18, after data showed TransCanada
Corp's Gulf Coast pipeline has begun to drain oil in
earnest from the benchmark delivery point in Cushing, Oklahoma.
U.S. crude narrowed its gap with Brent to less than $8 on
Wednesday, the smallest since early October. The spread
CL-LCO1=R widened on Thursday to settle at $8.38 per barrel.
Oil prices may find some support from the potential for
further supply interruptions from Libya, where protesters have
shut gas and oil pipelines from the Wafa oilfield and blocked
another line from the larger El Sharara field.
A spokesman for Libya's National Oil Corporation said
production had fallen to 460,000 bpd.
Low prices also reflected traders expectations of declining
crude demand. Crude oil demand traditionally dips in the second
quarter of the year as large northern hemisphere refineries
reduce capacity for maintenance.
The market also concerned itself with reports that a train
carrying crude oil crashed in Pennsylvania, adding to a string
of recent accidents.
(Additional reporting by Jeanine Prezioso in New York,
Christopher Johnson and David Sheppard in London and Jacob
Gronholt-Pedersen in Singapore; Editing by Jason Neely, Keiron
Henderson, Marguerita Choy and Meredith Mazzilli)