Oil falls below $108 on output rebound, euro zone data

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Brent crude oil fell below $108 a barrel on Monday on news of improving production from Libya and the North Sea and after euro zone data showed retail sales declined across the board for the first time in three months.

Brent fell $1.40 per barrel to a low of $107.55 before recovering to trade around $107.95 by 1340 GMT. U.S. light crude oil futures lost 90 cents to $106.04.

Libyan Oil Minister Abdelbari al-Arusi told a news conference on Monday the country's oil output had improved to around 700,000 barrels per day (bpd) and the government was working to end protests at oil facilities.

"Production has improved greatly to around 700,000 bpd and will reach 800,000 bpd after the Eid holiday," Arusi said. The Muslim holiday of Eid begins later this week.

Arusi said last week that strikes and protests at oil terminals had cut output to 330,000 barrels per day (bpd) from 1.4 million before output was disrupted.

Output is also improving in the North Sea, industry sources say, with news that the Buzzard oilfield, Britain's largest, was expected to begin restarting later on Monday, on schedule, after a five-day maintenance shutdown.

Loss of production from key oil exporters has been an important support for prices over the last month with a series of unscheduled outages disrupting output.

Shipments from Iraq have also been hit by damage to pipelines and maintenance work is also expected to cut Iraqi output by between 400,000 and 500,000 bpd in September.

In another incident, tribesmen blew up Yemen's main oil export pipeline late on Saturday, halting the flow of crude.

Also denting the oil market were disappointing figures from the euro zone where retail sales declined across the board for the first time in three months, highlighting the fragile nature of Europe's economic recovery and energy demand.

Investors were cautious after Iran and the United States signalled a will to improve relations and end a dispute over Tehran's nuclear programme, which has added a risk premium to financial markets and helped prop up oil prices.

Newly elected Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has called for dialogue to reduce "antagonism and aggression", while the United States has said it is ready to work with Rouhani's government if it were serious about engagement.

Iran's oil exports have been cut by more than half due to Western sanctions. That has helped keep oil above $100 for most of 2012 and this year, despite a weak global economy.

"Given the change of tone in Iran and comments from the United States, we are seeing risk premiums surrounding the Middle East and Iran coming off," said Jonathan Barratt, chief executive of commodity research firm Barratt's Bulletin.



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