Oil steadies on U.S. economic data; U.S. crude near $60 support

Thu Dec 11, 2014 3:21pm EST
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By Barani Krishnan

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Oil prices stabilized near five-year lows on Thursday as robust U.S. consumer spending data boosted investor optimism about the world's largest economy, while traders warned that a bottom for crude remained elusive after a six-month selloff.

Benchmark Brent oil remained below $65 a barrel while U.S. crude traded not far from the $60 support level in choppy trade.

U.S. consumer spending advanced at a brisk clip in November, Commerce Department data showed, as lower gasoline prices gave the holiday shopping season a boost.

Norway's rate cut and speculation of more European stimulus helped steady the crude market after Wednesday's 5 percent price drop, as did talk that some oil drillers were moving to cut exploration and production.

"For the moment at least, we're focused on the positives of this oil drop rather than the negatives like deflation and freeze on investments in energy spending," said Phil Flynn, analyst at the Price Futures Group in Chicago.

"That said, we're not getting much of a bounce, considering how hard it has been sold off."

Brent's front-month contract was up 20 cents, or 0.3 percent, at $64.44 a barrel by 12:33 p.m. EST (1733 GMT). Earlier, it fell as low as $63.70.

Front-month U.S. crude futures were down 12 cents at $60.82, after coming within less than 10 cents of breaking below $60 support.   Continued...

A customer holds a nozzle to fill up his tank in a gasoline station in Nice, December 5, 2014. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard