Oil edges up on Iran, but posts fourth weekly loss

Fri May 25, 2012 5:40pm EDT
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By Robert Gibbons and Gene Ramos

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Oil prices rose for a second day on Friday on the lack of progress in negotiations with Iran over its disputed nuclear program, but crude futures posted a fourth straight weekly loss as Europe's debt problems threatened economic growth and petroleum demand.

Euro-zone political turmoil and economic uncertainty pressured the euro against the dollar, and along with recent signs of slowing Chinese economic growth and rising U.S. crude oil inventories, helped limit gains of Brent and U.S. crude futures.

This week's negotiations on Iran's nuclear program yielded little progress, though the six major powers and Tehran agreed to meet again in June, keeping the threat of conflict and supply disruptions in play for investors.

News that Iran has enhanced its ability to enrich uranium and that U.N. inspectors found traces of uranium particles enriched at a higher rate than reported by Iran increased concerns in the oil markets ahead of the three-day U.S. Memorial Day holiday weekend.

U.S. consumer sentiment rose in May to its highest in more than four years, the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan final reading for the month said. The bigger-than-expected increase added support for oil prices.

Brent July crude rose 28 cents to settle at $106.83 a barrel, having swung from $106.02 to $107.24. The fourth straight weekly loss was only 31 cents, but Brent has fallen $13, or 10.85 percent, in that four-week period.

U.S. July crude edged up 20 cents to settle at $90.86, having moved from $90.20 to $91.32, and remaining inside Thursday's trading range. For the week, it fell 62 cents and losses during the four-week period total $14.07, or 13.4 percent.

Brent's premium to U.S. crude increased to $15.97, after dropping to $15.57 and reaching $16.25 intraday.   Continued...

Containers filled with oil cleaned up from the oil spill site are seen at Beilianggang port in Dalian, Liaoning province July 24, 2010. REUTERS/Stringer