Brent slips below $110, but on track for second weekly gain

Reuters
Villagers stand near a container containing crude oil collected by villagers as sample at the shore of the Atlantic ocean, days after Royal Dutch Shell's Bonga off-shore oil spill, in Nigeria's delta state
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Villagers stand near a container containing crude oil collected by villagers as sample at the shore of …

By Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Brent oil futures slipped below $110 per barrel on Friday but were on track to end higher for the second week following sharp overnight gains, with investors waiting for the outcome of talks on Iran's nuclear programme.

Oil prices jumped on Thursday, fuelled by a surge in gasoline futures, signs of continued economic strength in the United States and indications that a deal to curb Tehran's nuclear programme could be a long time coming.

"What is coming out of the talks now is what many had expected. It is going to take months or maybe even years before we get anything concrete out of this," said Tony Nunan, oil risk manager at Mitsubishi Corp in Tokyo.

Brent for January delivery was down 21 cents at $109.87 per barrel at 0505 GMT. U.S. crude was trading 38 cents lower at $95.07 per barrel, after posting its biggest gain in nearly two months on Thursday.

The U.S. benchmark was driven higher in part by New York gasoline futures, which surged on supply concerns as an outage at the country's largest refinery added to a cluster of plant problems.

Iran and six major powers have made some progress this week towards an interim deal, but negotiators appeared to play down expectations of an imminent breakthrough in the three-day talks that began on Wednesday.

Prior to the meeting, expectations of a breakthrough had remained high after the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany came close to winning concessions from Iran in the previous round of negotiations two weeks ago.

Adding to pressure on negotiators, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said on Thursday he was committed to moving ahead with a tougher Iran sanctions bill.

EXPLOSION

Signs of some strength in the U.S. economy helped support prices. The number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits fell sharply last week and a gauge of factory activity hit an eight-month high in early November.

"On the demand side, I think we're out of the woods," said Mitsubishi's Nunan. "Demand growth is like the unemployment figures - it's not great, but it's steadily getting better."

In Europe, the gasoline-making unit at Total's 360,000-bpd refinery in Antwerp, Belgium, was offline after an explosion on Tuesday that killed two people.

Unrest in Iraq added to uncertainty over supply, with the country suffering its worst wave of violence in at least five years.

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