* Brent off last week's high by more than $5
* Positive economic data lifts U.S. equities
* Coming up: EIA inventory report on Wed
By Jeanine Prezioso
NEW YORK, June 25 Crude oil prices ended near
flat in a sluggish day of trading on Tuesday as stronger equity
markets put a floor under prices and Brent's premium over U.S.
crude slid below $6.
Some trading was attributed to squaring positions as traders
bought contracts to cover short bets made the previous session,
when prices dropped to a three-week low, said Gene McGillian,
analyst with Tradition Energy in Stamford, Connecticut.
Oil prices bounced slightly off a three-day rout last week
that followed news that the U.S. Federal Reserve would scale
back its quantitative easing program. The Fed news boosted the
dollar, making commodities priced in the greenback more
expensive for holders of other currencies.
Equity markets were higher after strong economic data
on U.S. durable goods orders and prices for existing
But the data did little to guide a rally in the oil market
and acted more as a "double-edged sword", McGillian said.
"It means the Fed will pare back stimulus quicker than
people think and people are waiting to see what the market will
look like once the Fed takes its foot off the accelerator."
Front-month U.S. crude oil futures finished the day
14 cents higher at $95.32 per barrel. U.S. crude is down nearly
$4 from a $99.01 high made last Wednesday.
Brent crude oil ended 10 cents higher at $101.26 per
barrel. Brent has dropped more than $5 from its high near $107
Gasoline and heating oil futures also ended flat, at $2.73
per gallon and $2.85 per gallon, respectively.
CANADIAN PIPELINES, OIL DATA
Heavy rains and flooding in Alberta, Canada's main
oil-producing province, may have caused some pipelines to shut
over the weekend.
But by Tuesday, Enbridge Inc had returned a major
section of its Athabasca oil pipeline to service and it said
other lines are expected back in the coming days.
The specter of lower imports from Canada into the United
States sharply narrowed the premium of global benchmark Brent
crude oil to U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate .
The spread settled at $5.94 after hitting $5.60 during the
session, within 2 cents of its narrowest point reached in
November 2011 at $5.58. In January 2011, the spread was as
narrow as $5.18.
TransCanada Corp said on Tuesday that its Keystone
crude oil pipeline system is operating normally despite earlier
reports that said flows had slowed.
U.S. crude oil stocks were down by 28,000 barrels, data from
the American Petroleum Institute data showed. Forecasters had
expected a fall of 2 million barrels.
Oil prices were little changed after the data's release.
On Wednesday, the U.S Energy Information Administration will
release its crude oil data report expected to show U.S.
commercial crude oil stocks likely fell last week by 1.7 million
barrels as refinery activity increased, according to a Reuters
Oil stocks are still near record highs, also curbing rallies
in the oil market, analysts said.