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Brent rises above $110 on hopes of revived demand growth

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[February 24, 2014]  By Manash Goswami

SINGAPORE (Reuters)  Brent futures rose above $110 a barrel on Monday, defying the losses seen in most other risk assets on expectations of revived demand growth across industralised and emerging nations.

The Group of 20 economies has embraced a goal of generating more than $2 trillion in additional output over five years, while creating tens of million of new jobs, signaling optimism that the worst of crisis-era austerity is behind.

A drawdown in U.S. oil stockpiles over the past few weeks due to a severe chill is also lending support.

Brent crude had gained 19 cents to $110.04 a barrel by 0340 GMT, after settling higher for a second straight week. U.S. oil rose 27 cents to $102.47, after climbing for the sixth week in its longest winning streak in more than a year.

"The outlook is momentarily positive for energy prices," said Michael McCarthy, chief strategist at CMC Markets in Sydney. "It is more the demand side of the equation. Reasonable global growth in oil demand is expected."

A lack of data indicating the demand growth outlook for oil over the next few days will mean technicals and other drivers such as the U.S. dollar may influence prices, McCarthy said.


He expects the U.S. benchmark to face minor resistance at $103 a barrel, now that it has broken key resistance at $100. If prices go beyond $103, the next key ceiling for the contract is at $108.50-$110.

Similarly, Brent futures have broken through an important resistance level at $109.50-$110 and now face a minor cap at $111.50, he said.

"We haven't got a lot to move us around," McCarthy said. "It's fairly data free over the next few days, so technicals and other factors will drive the market."

Money managers raised their net long U.S. crude futures and options positions to a record in the week to Feb. 18, U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) data showed. Big hedge funds and other speculative traders boosted their combined futures and options position on the New York and London exchanges by 29,113 contracts to 393,248 during the period.

Bullish sentiment is emerging despite medium-term concerns that steadily rising U.S. shale oil production and a long-standing export ban may create a glut of light, sweet crude in the United States by year-end.

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SUPPLY WORRIES

Investors are also keeping an eye on escalating tension in the Middle East and North Africa and the potential for further disruption in oil exports.

In Libya oil output has plunged further, declining to 230,000 barrels a day on Sunday after a new protest shut the El Sharara field, down from 1.4 million bpd in July when nationwide protests started.

In South Sudan, the capital of the main oil-producing Upper Nile region, Malakal, remains divided between the army and rebels after forces loyal to Machar raided the town and fought against government troops.

A petroleum ministry official told Reuters on Thursday that national oil production had fallen to about 170,000 barrels per day even before the rebel strike on Malakal, a fall of around a third since the fighting erupted in December.

In Iraq, at least 17 people were killed and dozens wounded in bombings and shootings in northern Iraq and Baghdad on Sunday, police and medical sources said.

(Reporting by Manash Goswami; editing by Joseph Radford)

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