Oil down near $105 on Sandy, dollar strength

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Oil prices slipped to around $105 a barrel on Monday, weighed down by a strong dollar and demand destruction after Superstorm Sandy, while investors remained cautious ahead of the U.S. presidential election.

Front-month Brent futures were down 65 cents at $105.03 a barrel at 0946 GMT, while U.S. crude was down 34 cents to $84.52 a barrel.

Analysts said oil markets were following a general downwards trend for risk assets, with Asian equities, base metals and European equities also sliding in early trading.

The dollar was up 0.16 percent at 0947 GMT against a basket of currencies, helped by better-than-expected U.S. non-farm payroll figures on Friday. A stronger dollar makes commodities priced in dollars more expensive for buyers using other currencies.

Investors were also said to be cautious ahead of the U.S. presidential election, preferring perceived safe-haven assets.

"As the two candidates are still neck-and-neck, oil traders are likely to stay on the sidelines until the outcome becomes clearer," said Michael Poulsen, an analyst at Global Risk Management.

President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney are locked in a close race as voters head to the polls on Tuesday.

Markets are also worried about the outcome of Congressional talks over the 'fiscal cliff', a package of tax increases and spending cuts that will take effect in January if there is no long-term pact to cut the U.S. budget deficit.

Failure to find a speedy solution to the fiscal cliff could push the world's biggest economy into a deep recession and cut energy demand far more than expected.

"After the election, more confidence should come into the markets," said Eugen Weinberg, an energy analyst at Commerzbank in Frankfurt. He added that investors were also awaiting the outcome of the Chinese 18th Party Congress this week.

SANDY HAVOC

Disruption to oil supply infrastructure in the United States by Superstorm Sandy has prevented motorists from filling their fuel tanks. U.S. gasoline prices have posted their biggest fall sine 2008 over the past two weeks.

"For several days last week, it was still an open question as to how Sandy would impact the oil market but now it's clear you have reduced demand because people cannot consume, and that is bearish for oil markets," said Bjarne Schieldrop, chief commodity analyst at SEB.

He added that OPEC was still maintaining solid production, so the market had ample supplies of oil. Meanwhile, the structural tightness in distillates, which has persisted through Europe's seasonal refinery maintenance, is fading as refineries ramp up runs, he said.

Sandy triggered widespread liquidation of both long gasoil and crude oil positions last week, with the CFTC reporting lower speculative open interest on Friday .

A Jones Act waiver by the U.S. government to allow foreign tankers to take fuel from the U.S. Gulf Coast to the East Coast to ease the supply crunch helped cement the sell-off.

Meanwhile, the North Sea's Buzzard oilfield was expected to return to production on Saturday after numerous delays. The UK's largest oilfield has been offline for maintenance since Sept. 4, tightening the supply of Forties crude which helps set the price for the Brent crude benchmark. (Additional reporting by Ramya Venugopal and Rebekah Kebede; editing by Jane Baird)



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