* Cyprus bailout deal improves oil demand outlook for Europe
* Brent premium to U.S. crude slips under $13/bbl during
* Coming up: API oil inventory data, 4:30 p.m. EDT Tuesday
(Recasts, adding settlement prices)
By Robert Gibbons
NEW YORK, March 25 Crude oil futures rose on
Monday in choppy trading after a bailout deal for Cyprus
improved the outlook for fuel demand in the euro zone.
Brent price gains were curbed by caution about the Cyprus
bailout and Europe's economy, while U.S. crude prices rose more
than 1 percent and narrowed the spread between the two contracts
to less than $13 a barrel during the session.
Cyprus reached a deal with international lenders early on
Monday, agreeing to shut down its second-largest bank and
inflict heavy losses on big depositors in return for a 10
billion euro ($13 billion) bailout.
Brent May crude rose 51 cents to settle at $108.17 a
barrel, having traded from $106.80 to $109.07.
U.S. May crude rose $1.10 to settle at $94.81 a
barrel, above the 50-day moving average at $94.38 and having
reached $95.65 during the session.
In addition to the technically supportive move above the
50-day moving average, U.S. crude benefited from reduced
pressure from concerns about Cyprus, traders and brokers said.
Brent's premium to U.S. crude CL-LCO1=R ended lower at
$13.36 a barrel based on settlements. The spread narrowed to
$12.85 during the session, the narrowest since early July.
Brent briefly turned lower and then seesawed after comments
from the chief of the Eurogroup of euro zone finance ministers
dampened investor enthusiasm that had pushed oil and share
prices higher after the deal to help Cyprus.
The rescue agreed for Cyprus represents a new template for
resolving euro zone banking problems and other countries may
have to restructure their banking sectors, Dutch Finance
Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who heads the Eurogroup, said.
The strength of the dollar helped keep oil's rally in
check. The euro slumped against the U.S. currency after
Dijsselbloem's comments caused initial enthusiasm stemming from
the Cyprus deal to give way to caution.
"The relief at the fact that Cyprus will not suffer an
uncontrolled bankruptcy and have to leave the euro zone may
prompt financial investors to increase their long positions in
crude oil," analysts at Commerzbank said in a note.
While the deal removed the immediate risk of financial
meltdown in Cyprus and its possible exit from the euro zone,
concerns persisted about the Mediterranean island and the euro
zone economy as a whole.
"The deal puts the fire out for now. The question is whether
it is sustainable," said Thorbjorn Bak Jensen, an analyst at AS
Global Risk Management in Copenhagen.
"The story is not finished yet; there will still need to be
more haircuts ... The positive is that something has been agreed
on, but there is still some time to go."
Saudi Arabia's oil minister, Ali al-Naimi, said on Monday
that an oil price around $100 a barrel was reasonable for
consumers and producers, highlighting the top crude exporter's
Brent prices in mid-February pushed above $119 a barrel to
its highest level this year, before pulling back on economic
concerns and improving North Sea supply.
Middle East tensions, including the civil war in Syria and
Iran's dispute with the West over Tehran's nuclear program,
continue to support oil prices.
(Additional reporting by Ron Bousso in London, and Jessica
Jaganathan and Manash Goswami in Singapore; Editing by Dale
Hudson and David Gregorio)