TOKYO (Reuters) - Brent crude futures nudged higher on Friday towards $113 a barrel on supply concerns, but the contract was still set for its biggest weekly drop in nearly three months as fears of a U.S.-led military attack on Syria recede.
Besides developments relating to the Middle East nation, investors are awaiting a slew of U.S. data slated for release later in the day for more signals on whether the Federal Reserve will begin unwinding its long-standing monetary stimulus this month.
The United States and Russia started talks on Thursday about Moscow's plan for Syria to surrender its chemical weapons, but the U.S. Secretary of State underscored the point that military force may still be needed if diplomacy fails.
Benchmark Brent crude for October, which expires on Friday, was up 11 cents at $112.74 a barrel by 0250 GMT, after gaining $1.13 on Thursday. U.S. crude was 3 cents lower at $108.57.
Brent is now up for three straight sessions but the gains don't seem enough to cover two days of heavy losses in the week that wiped nearly $5 off the European benchmark, and put it on track for a nearly 3 percent weekly drop, its steepest since the week that ended June 21.
"Libyan crude supply problems have lifted Brent of late, but until the situation in Syria is clearer and the outcome of next week's Fed meeting is known, it is hard to take a position," said Kaname Gokon, deputy general manager at Tokyo-based broker Okato Shoji Co.
Libya's state National Oil Corp has declared force majeure on three ports, a company document showed on Thursday, following several weeks of shutdown.
In addition, a processing platform in Norway's Ekofisk crude stream will be partially shut down in the next week for repairs, its operator said on Thursday, which may further delay shipments of the oil that helps set the Brent benchmark.
Graphic-U.S. crude analysis:
DATA EYED TO GAUGE FED MOVE
Investors are now awaiting a heap of economic data due out of Washington later in the day, including producer inflation and retail sales figures, which may shed more light on the Federal Reserve's stimulus strategy going forward.
The U.S. central bank is expected to reduce its $85 billion a month bond-buying programme at its two-day policy meeting that ends on Sept 18. But recent weaker-than-expected data intensifies uncertainty about the extent of reduction.
Asian shares slipped on Friday and the dollar held to overnight losses against the yen as investors fretted not whether but by how much the Fed will cut its monthly stimulus at next week's monetary meeting. (Reporting by James Topham; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)