Oil Climbs Above $60 on Alaska Weather, Supply Forecast

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Oil prices jumped more than 2 percent to $60 a barrel Tuesday after bad weather disrupted loadings at Alaska's main export terminal and analysts forecast a drawdown in U.S. fuel stocks ahead of winter.

The halt of oil production on a North Sea oil platform Monday due to a gas alert also buoyed prices, dealers said.

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U.S. crude settled $1.37 higher to $60.17 a barrel, reversing Monday's 17-cent loss. London Brent crude rose $1.41 to $60.39.

"Supply disruptions in Alaska and the North Sea are all playing into the market today," said Mark Waggoner, president of Excel Futures in Huntington Beach, California.

High winds forced operators in Alaska's port of Valdez to suspend loadings Monday, slowing the 800,000 barrel per day Trans Alaska Pipeline to 25 percent of capacity.

The giant oil state's production was also cut by 65 percent as the port inventories swelled, rekindling worries over U.S. stockpiles heading into the winter heating season.

In the North Sea, production was halted on the Brae Alpha oil platform operated by the UK subsidiary of U.S. Marathon Oil Corp. Monday after a gas alert, a company spokeswoman said.

Analysts still expect government data Wednesday to show that U.S crude stocks rose by 600,000 barrels last week, according to a Reuters poll of industry analysts. It would be the fourth straight week of increases.

But they said distillate stocks, including winter heating oil, are likely to have fallen by 1.2 million barrels.

Weather forecaster WSI Corp said on Monday the U.S. Northeast, the world's largest heating oil market, will have a colder than normal winter.

"Seasonal market fundamentals may have had more to do with stabilizing prices than promise of output cuts from OPEC," said the Center for Global Energy Studies.

Oil prices that tumbled sharply from a mid-July record high of $78.40 a barrel have steadied at around $58-$62 a barrel since early October.

OPEC is on alert to make a further round of production cuts at its Dec. 14 meeting if necessary, deepening the 1.2 million barrels per day reduction it pledged to implement from Nov. 1.

The head of the International Energy Agency, which advises 26 industrialized countries, said OPEC didn't need to cut its output as prices remained too high.

"I think that prices are still much too high and all in all I don't see a rationale for a cut," said Claude Mandil at an energy conference in Brussels.

Analysts expect prices this week to remain within the roughly $58-$62 range that has predominated since early October. partly due to the shortened trading week in the United States.

"We will continue to be mired in broad trading ranges for now," said Man Financial. "The holiday-shortened week should keep activity restrained."

The New York Mercantile Exchange will be closed on Thursday and Friday for Thanksgiving.

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