UPDATE 2-Brent rises above $108 on hopes for US fiscal cliff fix

Manash Goswami
Reuters Middle East

* "Fiscal cliff" hopes lift Asian shares, other riskier


* Seaway pipeline expansion news supports U.S. oil

* Brent to rebound to $109.02 -technicals

(Adds Ali al-Naimi's comment, updates prices)

SINGAPORE, Dec 18 (Reuters) - Brent crude rose above $108 a

barrel on Tuesday as the outlook for demand improved on signs of

progress in U.S. talks to resolve a budget crisis that threatens

to dip the world's top oil consumer into recession again.

Optimism that the U.S. "fiscal cliff" tussle could be

settled before tax hikes and spending cuts kick in early next

year boosted riskier assets after President Barack Obama made an

offer to Republicans that included a major change in position on

tax hikes for the wealthy.

"Oil is tracking the positive reaction in equities from New

York to Asia over hopes of a resolution of the U.S. fiscal

crisis," said Tetsu Emori, a Tokyo-based commodities fund

manager at Astmax Investment.

U.S. oil is drawing support from news of a pipeline

expansion in the United States that may help narrow the spread

between the two contracts, Emori said.

Brent crude rose 75 cents to $108.39 a barrel by

0715 GMT. U.S. oil gained 55 cents to $87.75, rising for

a third straight day on hopes the Seaway pipeline expansion may

help soak up the crude glut in the delivery hub of the futures


A resolution to the so-called U.S. fiscal cliff may help

support oil prices, which have been trapped in a range, with

Brent trading between a high of $112 and a low of $104 since

November partly because of an uncertain demand outlook.

"The market will view any advance in talks as positive for

confidence which has been battered by the daily flow of

political fighting," Ben Taylor, sales trader at CMC Markets

said in a report. "Regardless of what is decided, the market is

looking for a decision and any compromise will help provide a

clearer picture for the future."

The differences over how to resolve the "fiscal cliff"

narrowed significantly as, in its most dramatic position change

yet, the White House proposed leaving lower tax rates in place

for everyone except those earning $400,000 and above, a source

familiar with the talks said.

That's up from the $250,000 threshold the president has been

demanding for months, but still far from Republican House of

Representatives Speaker John Boehner's preference of $1 million.

The possible end to the stalemate comes as data points to a

revival in demand in China, renewing investor optimism over the

world's top two oil consumers.

"We have also seen an improvement coming from China. Their

refinery output is increasing and that is leading to higher

imports," Emori said. "That is also supporting prices."

Global oil supplies are ample and demand is good, top

exporter Saudi Arabia's oil minister Ali Al-Naimi said, adding

that both buyers and sellers are happy with current prices.

Brent is expected to rebound to $109.02 per barrel, as it

did not break a support at $107.54, while U.S. oil may break a

resistance at $87.77 and rise into a range of $88.28 to $88.37,

Reuters technical analyst Wang Tao said.


The spread between the two contracts narrowed by

more than $2 on Monday to about $20 per barrel on news that a

pipeline to transport crude between Cushing, Oklahoma, and

Houston, Texas, will be expanded starting next month.

Enterprise Products Partners LP and partner Enbridge

Inc said they plan to expand the 150,000 barrel per day

Seaway pipeline to 400,000 bpd by next month and to 850,000

barrels a day of crude by early 2014.

A glut of crude in Cushing has contributed to the heavy

discount of U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures to

Brent which widened to more than $25 per barrel last month.

The increased capacity will allow more crude from Cushing to

the Gulf Coast, where it fetches prices closer to Brent.

Meanwhile, a drawdown of inventories by U.S. refineries for

year-end tax purposes may result in a lower reading for

stockpiles data due on Tuesday, a Reuters poll showed.

Crude stocks may have dropped by 1 million barrels in the

week ended Dec. 14, the poll showed.

(Additional reporting by Ramya Venugopal; Editing by Himani


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