[NEW YORK] Crude futures fell from 2015 peaks in choppy trading on Friday, but Brent's 9.6 per cent weekly gain was its biggest in more than five years as Middle East turmoil and signs of lower US production lifted prices.
US crude also retreated from its 2015 high, but registered a fifth straight weekly gain, which at 7.9 per cent was the biggest since it jumped 13.5 per cent in the week to Feb. 25 2011.
Brent June crude fell 53 cents to settle at US$63.45 a barrel, having swung from US$62.95 to US$64.50 after hitting US$64.95, its 2015 high, on Thursday.
Brent's second straight weekly gain, the fourth in five weeks, was its biggest since a 9.9 per cent rally in the week to Oct 16, 2009.
US May crude, expiring on Tuesday, fell 97 cents to settle at US$55.74. It reached a 2015 peak of US$57.42 on Thursday.
Yemen's escalating conflict sparked Thursday's rally and on Friday military units protecting the Masila oilfields withdrew.
While Yemen is not a major oil producer, the conflict raises concern about risks to supply from the region's major exporters, especially Saudi Arabia.
Oil rallied Wednesday on data showing the smallest weekly US inventory build since Jan 2. That followed reports of US production beginning to pull back as the price retreat since June weighs on producers.
Oil initially pared losses after Baker Hughes data showed US oil drilling rigs fell for a record 19th straight week, although this week's 26-rig drop was lower than the loss of 42 last week. "Futures markets are always forward-looking and as a result, the market has seen a focus shift away from rising stock levels ... and toward production leveling where significant uncertainties lie ahead," Jim Ritterbusch, president of Ritterbusch & Associates, said in a note.
Prices also drew support from traders closing out short positions, encouraged by strong technical factors, said Rob Montefusco, senior oil trader at Sucden Financial. "Technically, Brent is looking in better shape at the moment," he said.
Brent and US crude pushed above their 100-day moving averages this week. Brent's 50-day average of US$58.18 moved above its 100-day of US$57.90 on Friday, a bullish move called a "golden cross" by chart watchers. That puts the 100-day average as a major new support level.
Speculators raised their net long US crude futures and options positions in the week to April 14, the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission said.