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Brent crude holds over $73, supported by US demand

Written by: Staff

TOKYO, July 4 (Reuters) London oil futures held firm above a barrel in muted activity on Tuesday as traders awaited the end of the long U.S. holiday weekend, expected to have lifted gasoline demand as holidaymakers took to the road.

London Brent crude was up 8 cents at .47 a barrel by 0652 GMT, reversing part of Monday's 12-cent loss.

The U.S. New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) resumes trading on Wednesday after the U.S. Independence Day holiday, when holiday drivers are expected to reach a record number.

''The market lacks direction today because the U.S. market is closed. But the tone is bullish, with Brent holding a tight grip above ,'' said Hiroyuki Kitakata, the director at Barclays Capital in Tokyo. ''Traders are looking forward to figures showing U.S. holiday gasoline demand.'' High pump prices show few signs of deterring U.S. motorists from hitting the highway this summer as the U.S. economy grew in the first quarter at the fastest rate in 2-{ years.

U.S. weekly inventory data -- due on Thursday, a day later than usual due to the holiday -- will give a snapshot of supply and demand at the end of last week.

Thinning fuel stocks could add impetus to a market that has rallied more than 20 percent this year, lifted by prolonged international tension over key oil exporter Iran's nuclear programme and partial loss of Nigeria's crude supply.

Senior Iranian nuclear officials on Monday dismissed a demand that Iran suspend uranium enrichment, Iranian news agencies reported.

The suspension was proposed in the package backed by six world powers, to which Iran had said it would respond by August 22.


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