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Crude oil futures - Weekly outlook: July 15 - 19

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Shutterstock photo - New York-traded crude oil futures ended higher on Friday, as appetite for riskier assets improved after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said that the central bank will maintain its easy monetary policy for the foreseeable future.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange, light sweet crude futures for delivery in August rallied 1.3% Friday to settle the week at USD105.95 a barrel by close of trade.

On Thursday, New York-traded oil prices rose to USD107.44 a barrel, the strongest level since March 27, 2012.

On the week, Nymex oil futures advanced 2.3%, the third consecutive weekly gain.

Futures jumped 2% on Wednesday after Fed Chief Bernanke said that "highly accommodative" monetary policy will be needed for the "foreseeable future," citing low levels of inflation and the high unemployment rate.

Bernanke indicated that the Fed will not raise interest rates even after the unemployment rate reaches the Fed's target of 6.5%.

The comments came after the minutes of the central bank's June policy meeting showed that Fed policymakers remain divided over when to begin tapering its USD85 billion-a-month asset purchase program.

Around half of Fed policymakers believe the bank should start to scale back bond purchases by the end of the year, while others believe the labor market still remains too weak.

The Fed's stimulus program is viewed by many investors as a key driver in boosting the price of commodities as it tends to depress the value of the dollar.

Oil prices were also supported after Wednesday's bullish U.S. inventory report showed that crude oil inventories fell by 9.9 million barrels last week, compared to expectations for a decline of 3.3 million barrels.

Nymex oil prices fell on Thursday following the release of a mostly bearish report from the International Energy Agency on global oil supply and demand.

The IEA said that oil supplies from countries outside the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries will rise by 1.3 million barrels a day in 2014, an annual growth rate that "has only been achieved once in the last twenty years."

In the week ahead, investors will be looking ahead to U.S. data on retail sales, consumer inflation and housing sector activity to further gauge the strength of the U.S. economy.

Market players will also be looking ahead to Monday's data on Chinese economic growth as well as industrial production figures, amid mounting concerns over the country's economic outlook.

China is the world's second largest oil consumer after the U.S. and has been the engine of strengthening demand.

Elsewhere, on the ICE Futures Exchange in London, Brent oil futures for August delivery jumped 1.1% on Friday to settle the week at USD108.81 a barrel.

Earlier in the session, Brent prices rose to a daily high of USD109.14 a barrel, the strongest level since April 3.

The London-traded Brent contract added 1.1% over the week, while the spread between the Brent and the crude contracts stood at USD2.86 a barrel.

The gap between the contracts narrowed to the smallest level since November 2010 earlier in the week, amid an improving production outlook in the North Sea and indications of declining stockpiles at Cushing, Oklahoma, the delivery point for Nymex oil futures. - offers an extensive set of professional tools for the Forex, Commodities, Futures and the Stock Market including real-time data streaming, a comprehensive economic calendar, as well as financial news and technical & fundamental analysis by in-house experts.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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