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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Oil Falls From Highs After Missing $50

LONDON -- Oil prices eased from new highs Friday as dealers pocketed profits from a long record-breaking run after escalating violence in Iraq took U.S. crude close to $50 per barrel.

U.S. light crude fell $1 in late trade to $47.70 per barrel on profit-taking from a record $49.40 per barrel on the last day of the September futures contract. It later closed at $47.86.

Crude oil prices on the New York Mercantile Exchange set all-time records in all but one of the last 16 trading sessions but failed to break $50.

"Nothing goes in a straight line. When you have a bull market, people are going to take profits," said Peter Schiff, chief executive of private brokerage Euro Pacific Capital. "Anyone who's tried to pick a top to this market has lost some money."

London Brent crude set a new record of $45.15 per barrel before settling at $43.54.

Friday's push to new peaks came after U.S. warplanes pounded an Iraqi militia in Najaf to try to quell a two-week-old Shiite uprising, killing at least 77 fighters in 24 hours.

But oil prices fell amid confusion over the rebel leader, cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. Oil dealers fear further attacks by Sadr's militia on Iraqi oil infrastructure after insurgents set fire Thursday to the headquarters of the state company that operates Iraq's southern oil fields, the South Oil Co.

U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow said there had not yet been a large enough disruption to warrant tapping U.S. emergency stockpiles.

"The president has made it clear that the Strategic Petroleum Reserve is to be used for the purposes for which it was intended, a disruption of such proportions that it's called for. I don't think we're there yet," Snow said in an interview with the financial cable news channel CNBC.

Hedge fund manager Peter Thiel, president of Clarium Capital LLC, said a change in U.S. President George W. Bush's administration policy about the SPR was only probable if oil prices went as high as $55 or $60 per barrel.

"Prices would have to go higher ... to start getting enough pressure on the SPR issue. At $55 to $60 the U.S. economy goes into a recession, and you could then have a major political intervention," he said.

Rising oil demand has left no room among producer countries to cope with disruptions from Iraq, but there is little sign high prices are slowing the fuel demand that is fed by global economic growth.

"Today it's Iraq, but next it might be Venezuela or Nigeria or a strike in Norway," Thiel said. "We're now living in a world where there is no extra supply and that's why there's so much volatility when these specific incidents occur."

International Monetary Fund director Rodrigo Rato was quoted on Friday saying he still expected world economic growth this year of 4.6 percent. Global oil demand growth this year is running at a 24-year high of nearly 3 percent.