Brent ends below $60, U.S. crude settles up, then dips

Tue Dec 16, 2014 5:41pm EST
 
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By Barani Krishnan

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Brent crude futures fell for a fifth straight day on Tuesday to end below $60 a barrel while U.S. crude finished a volatile session slightly higher as trading of expiring options helped defend the price above $55.

U.S. crude dipped again after settlement after an industry group reported growth in domestic crude inventories, which analysts had expected to shrink in the latest week.

Early in the session, prices slid more than $2 barrel as major oil producers said they were in no rush to cut production and curb a growing glut.

While both markets rebounded from session lows, U.S. crude saw frenzied trading that pushed it up more than $1 at one point as players sought to defend prices at around the $55 mark to avoid executing options that expire in-the-money.

Traders also cited a selloff in gasoline/heating oil crack spreads, which they said bolstered U.S. crude earlier in the day.

U.S. crude fell in post-settlement trade after the American Petroleum Institute said crude inventories in the United States rose nearly 2 million barrels last week. The market had expected a stockpile drop [API/S], and will be eager to see the official inventory data due to be released by the U.S, Energy Information Administration on Wednesday.

U.S. crude's front-month settled up 2 cents at $55.93 a barrel. Its session low of $53.60 was the lowest since May 2009. Post-settlement, the front-month was down 70 cents at $55.21 by 4:45 p.m. EST.

Brent pared some of its losses as traders tried to keep the value of its expiring front-month contract, January, close to the nearby February, which will be the market's benchmark from Wednesday.   Continued...

 
A customer uses a petrol nozzle to fill up his tank in a gas station in Nice August 27, 2012. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard