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Oil steadying at $52.87 after posting big weekly rise early

The oil and gas sector
The oil and gas sector

Oil prices swung back and forth, Friday as traders closed positions at the end of a week that saw prices rising by the most in over six years earlier in the session.

Market participants flip-flopped between the negative fundamentals of persistent oversupply and support factors from Syria-related concerns and a weaker U.S. dollar.

Earlier in the session, Brent was on track to notch its highest weekly percentage gain since 2009, but some traders said the sharp rise was overblown, prompting speculators to take profits.

Brent crude, the global benchmark, was down 18 cents at $52.87 a barrel in the morning, during a volatile session that saw the contract touch an intraday high of $54.05.

U.S. crude was up 42 cents at $49.85 a barrel, off a two-month high of $50.92.

The momentum had been more bullish earlier in the session after the U.S. central bank’s meeting minutes on Thursday showed more policymakers than expected had agreed to keep the first interest rate hike in a decade on hold.

“The market is taking a pause here. After the move to almost $51, if it actually settles down in a day, it’s a little bearish and might be turning to lower prices next week,” said Kyle Cooper, analyst at IAF Advisors in Houston.

In the Middle East, an Iranian Revolutionary Guards general was killed near Aleppo, where he was advising the Syrian army.

Saudi Arabia kept its crude oil production steady in September, an industry source told Reuters, maintaining a high level of output as part of a strategy to defend market share.

“There will have to be a change in the OPEC market share strategy for oil balances to return to normal in a reasonable period of time. Until that happens the current projected cut in U.S. production will not be enough,” said Dominick Chirichella, an analyst at the Energy Management Institute.

Investors are also awaiting indications on U.S. production from the weekly Baker Hughes rig count, due at 1 p.m. EDT on Friday.

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