November 21, 2013 / 5:06 AM / 6 years ago

Brent slips below $108 on Fed taper worries, Iran deal hopes

* Fed minutes show taper may happen at one of next few meetings

* Major powers resume talks on Iran nuclear programme

* US distillate stocks drop as demand spikes -EIA

* China factory sector grows at milder pace in November

* Coming up: US Markit flash manufacturing PMI at 1358 GMT

By Manash Goswami

SINGAPORE, Nov 21 (Reuters) - Brent futures slipped below $108 a barrel on Thursday on expectations the U.S. Federal Reserve would scale back its massive economic stimulus and that world powers would strike a preliminary deal with Iran over its nuclear programme.

Minutes of the Fed’s Oct. 29-30 policy meeting showed officials felt they could decide to start scaling back the stimulus at one of its next few meetings, which would boost the dollar and weigh on commodities such as oil.

But worries over supply from Libya helped stem the slide.

Brent crude had fallen 25 cents to $107.81 a barrel by 0345 GMT, after gaining the most in a week and ending up $1.14. U.S. oil extended losses by 23 cents to $93.62, after settling 4 cents lower.

“The issue of tapering is back to the fore after yesterday’s Fed minutes,” said Victor Shum, vice-president of energy consultancy IHS Energy Insight. “Talks between Iran and world powers are erasing some geopolitical risks, but the situation in Libya is putting a floor on prices.”

The combination of factors should keep oil in a tight trading range until clear details are available on when the Fed will rollback its stimulus or geopolitical tensions in the Middle East worsen, Shum said.

He expects Brent to average at around $108 a barrel for the rest of the year, and the U.S. benchmark to stay around $94 a barrel in the short term.

Major powers resumed talks on Wednesday with Iran over its nuclear programme. While the United States warned it would be “very hard” to clinch a breakthrough deal, policymakers have said an interim accord on confidence-building steps could finally be within reach.

That may help defuse a decade-old standoff and dispel the spectre of a wider Middle East war over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear ambitions, which has kept oil near $100 a barrel despite a weak consumption outlook.

OUTLOOK

Oil was also under pressure as the latest data showed activity in China’s vast factory sector grew at a milder pace in November as new export orders shrank.

But the Flash Markit/HSBC Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI), remained above the 50 line which demarcates expansion from contraction for the fourth consecutive month, helping assure investors the government has achieved the stability it sought to push through reforms.

Elsewhere, oil was drawing support from Energy Information Administration (EIA) data that showed U.S. stocks of distillates fell 4.8 million barrels last week, a draw that exceeded expectations by more than 4 million barrels.

Brent may revisit its Wednesday low of $106.51 per barrel, as indicated by its wave pattern, while U.S. oil’s sideways move indicates the formation of a falling wedge, according to Reuters technical analyst Wang Tao. (Reporting by Manash Goswami; Editing by Joseph Radford)

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