Brent oil rises near $110, eyes US gasoline

Brent oil rises near $110, eyes US gasoline

London: Brent crude rose on Wednesday towards $110 a barrel after an industry report showed a larger-than-expected decline in US gasoline supplies and upbeat economic data trumped concerns over the euro zone debt crisis.

A meeting between French and German leaders on Tuesday did not calm investor concern about Europe’s sovereign debt problems. Even so, better-than-expected U.S. industrial production figures helped bolster sentiment.

Brent crude for October rose 75 cents to $109.88 by 1:52pm. It fell to $98.74 on 9 August, the lowest since February, on concern about economic slowdown. US crude was up 59 cents at $87.24 a barrel.

“Oil has steadily, if not slowly recovered from its risk aversion mode plunge that also took down equity markets," said Harry Tchilinguirian, head of commodity markets strategy at BNP Paribas.

“Increasingly, oil will look again at its own drivers. As such this morning, the market is likely re-assured that we are not accumulating gasoline inventories in the US, given the steep draws reported yesterday evening by the API."

US stockpiles of gasoline fell 5.4 million barrels in the week to 12 August, which was more than forecast, industry group the American Petroleum Institute (API) said on Tuesday.

“We will be looking to see if that number is confirmed in the EIA release this afternoon," Tchilinguirian said.

Crude inventories will also be a focus, after the API said they rose by 1.75 million barrels. The US government’s Energy Information Administration releases its supply report at 8:00pm.

European stocks turned flat after a fall in early trade, following on from losses in Asia. Gold, attractive to some investors as a safe haven, held steady near a record high.

Barclays Capital technical analysts said the near-term Brent outlook was bullish with the contract trading above the 200-day moving average, while US oil was set to push towards $90 where it expected selling interest to cap the rally.

Concerns about the European debt crisis have weighed on oil markets in recent weeks, adding to worries about weak US economic data that could hit fuel demand.

The euro zone economy slowed sharply in the second quarter, hobbled by sluggish growth in Germany and stagnation in France, raising fears of a longer-term dip.

Oil has gained support this year from the conflict in Libya which has shut down fields that once pumped 1.6 million barrels per day (bpd). The loss has bolstered Brent in particular as most of Libya’s oil was priced against it.

Much of Libya’s output could be restored within months if peace can be established, industry executives and analysts say. Rebels fighting to topple Moammar Gadhafi denied reports of secret talks with the Libyan leader on Tuesday.