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Brent trades near nine-month high; Iran won’t cede on nuclear

Bloomberg

By Ben Sharples

Brent traded near a nine-month high in London after climbing for a fourth week, the longest streak of gains since July. World powers will be unable to stop Iran’s technological advancement, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said.

The European benchmark contract was little changed after rising a fourth day on Feb. 8. World powers failed to stop Iran from becoming a country that has mastered nuclear technology and no power is able to impose its will on the nation, Ahmadinejad said yesterday at a rally in Tehran to mark the 34th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution. London-traded Brent’s premium to West Texas Intermediate expanded for an eighth day last week after China reported crude imports rose.

“The relatively positive outlook for international demand is continuing,” said Ric Spooner, a chief market analyst at CMC Markets in Sydney. “The U.S. inventory data, retail sales and industrial production figures toward the end of the week will give an insight into the short-term activity in the U.S.”

Brent for March settlement was at $118.73 a barrel, down 17 cents, on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange at 5:35 p.m. Sydney time. The number of futures exchanged was 22 percent below the 100-day average. The contract increased $1.66 to $118.90 on Feb. 8, the highest since May 1. The European benchmark grade was at a premium of $23.16 to WTI. It closed at $23.18 on Feb. 8, the widest since Nov. 26.

The Brent-WTI spread has widened since Enterprise Product Partners LP said Jan. 31 that capacity will be limited until late 2013 on its Seaway pipeline to the Gulf Coast from Cushing, Oklahoma, the delivery point for the New York contract.
China Imports

WTI crude for March delivery was at $95.57 a barrel, down 15 cents, in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract slid 11 cents to $95.72 on Feb. 8, the lowest since Jan. 23. The volume of all contracts traded was 47 percent below the 100-day average.

Brent futures gained on Feb. 8 after China reported that net crude imports were 24.87 million metric tons, according to data from the General Administration of Customs. That’s equivalent to about 5.88 million barrels a day, the most since May. U.S. refiners supplied 1.2 percent more fuel over the past four weeks ended Feb. 1 compared with a year earlier, the Energy Information Administration said Feb. 6.
Bullish Bets

Hedge-fund managers and other large speculators cut their net-long position in WTI for the first time in eight weeks, according to Commodity Futures Trading Commission data. Managed money bets that prices will rise outnumbered short positions by 212,226 futures and options combined, a decline of 6,378, or 2.9 percent, in the week ended Feb. 5, the regulator said in its weekly Commitments of Traders report on Feb. 8.

The average price for regular gasoline at U.S. pumps rose 24.75 cents a gallon in the past two weeks to $3.5918 a gallon, according to Lundberg Survey Inc.

The survey covers the period ended Feb. 8 and is based on information obtained from about 2,500 stations by the Camarillo, California-based company. The average is up 8.17 cents from a year earlier. It was the biggest jump since the two weeks ended March 4, 2011.