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Oil Set for 2nd Week of Gains on Signs of Improving Demand

  • U.S. crude and gasoline inventories fall
  • U.S. oil demand on the rise as summer begins
  • Israel-Lebanon tensions ratchet up

June 21 (Reuters) - Crude oil futures were little changed on Friday but on course to rise for a second week amid signs of improving demand and falling oil and fuel inventories in the United States, the world's biggest oil consumer.

Brent futures for August settlement were down 6 cents to $85.65 a barrel by 1100 GMT, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures for August delivery were down 5 cents to $81.24.

Both benchmarks were headed for a second week of more than 3% gains. Prices have gained about 5% this month to reach their highest in more than seven weeks.

"The seasonal demand increase, as shown by the latest EIA data, renewed confrontation between Israel and Hezbollah, and the hurricane season could sustain price strength into the summer," Citi analysts said in a note.

Data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) released on Thursday showed total product supplied, a proxy for the country's oil demand, rose by 1.9 million barrels per day (bpd) in the week ending June 14 to 21.1 million bpd.

The EIA report showed a drawdown in U.S. crude stockpiles by 2.5 million barrels during the week to 457.1 million barrels, compared with analysts' expectations for a fall of 2.2 million.

Gasoline inventories fell by 2.3 million barrels to 231.2 million barrels, the EIA said, compared with forecasts for a 600,000-barrel build.‚Äč

Demand prospects elsewhere also helped push prices higher.

"Signs of stronger demand in Asia also boosted sentiment. Oil refineries across the region are bringing back some idled capacity after maintenance," analysts at ANZ Research said.

Meanwhile, Ukraine's military said its drones struck four oil refineries, radar stations and other military objects in Russia in the early hours of Friday.

The head of Lebanon's Hezbollah this week pledged a full-on conflict with Israel in the event of a cross-border war and also threatened EU member Cyprus for the first time.

Weighing on prices were U.S. data released on Thursday that showed a decline in new unemployment claims, which may lead the Federal Reserve to keep interest rates unchanged.

Higher interest rates typically limit economic growth and, in turn, oil demand.

Additional reporting by Laila Kearney in New York and Sudarshan Varadhan in Singapore; editing by Christian Schmollinger and Jason Neely

Source: Reuters


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