Oil slips as focus returns to growth worry

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Oil retreated on Wednesday, cutting some of the sharp gains seen this week, as investors turned their focus to growth problems confronting the U.S. and European economies after the re-election of President Barack Obama.

Oil rose sharply on Monday and Tuesday as investors started to anticipate a clear U.S. election result that would end the uncertainty that had contributed to weakness in previous weeks.

Worries about the European economy and whether negotiations in the United States to avert a looming fiscal cliff, which would lead to nearly $600 billion in spending cuts, have now returned to the foreground.

The European Commission said the euro zone economy will barely grow next year, European Central Bank President Draghi said the bank expects the euro zone economy to remain weak "in the near term" and data showed German industrial output fell more than forecast in September.

"There's been an Obama bounce, but what's really changed? There are still the problems with the fiscal cliff, and the situation in Europe is still pretty dire," Michael Hewson, an analyst at CMC Markets, said.

Front-month Brent futures were down $1.42 at $109.65 per barrel by 1411 GMT. U.S. crude fell $1.72 to $86.99 per barrel.

Brent was still up 4.5 percent on the week, its biggest such rise since July.

Some analysts said Obama's win was positive for oil in the longer term, due to the regulatory outlook, and as he is seen as keen to maintain easy monetary policy which depresses the dollar, making oil priced in other currencies more affordable.

"His re-election should be viewed as rather bullish for oil, as in addition to a tougher stance on energy regulations and licensing in the U.S., he is friendlier towards expansionary monetary policies than his opponent in the presidential race, Mr Romney," said JBC in a note to clients.

In Greece, a key parliamentary vote on a new set of wage and pension cuts was set for Wednesday, keeping the focus on Europe's debt worries.

Greek protesters took to the streets against the new austerity measures, even though the parliament is expected to approve them by a narrow margin.

SUPPLY WORRIES

Supply worries contributed some support to oil prices after Middle East violence escalated again.

Turkey is to make an "imminent" official request to NATO to station Patriot missiles along its 910 km (560 mile) border with Syria, a senior Turkish foreign ministry official said on Wednesday.

The news came after bombs exploded in three districts of the Syrian capital Damascus on Tuesday, killing and wounding dozens, while gunmen shot dead the brother of the parliament speaker in the latest rebel attack on a figure associated with the ruling elite.

Directly impacting the oil supply out of Syria, an explosion hit the main oil pipeline feeding a refinery on the western edge of the city of Homs on Tuesday during fighting between rebels and army forces in the area.

U.S. crude oil inventories fell slightly last week and product stocks rose, data from the American Petroleum Institute showed on Tuesday, confounding analysts' expectations in the wake of storm Sandy, which has caused widespread disruptions to East Coast refineries and terminals.

Inventory data from the Energy Information Administration is scheduled for release later on Wednesday.

Crude inventories are forecast to have risen 1.8 million barrels last week, while product stocks are seen falling, an expanded Reuters poll of analysts showed on Tuesday. (Editing by James Jukwey)



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