Brent crude oil rises above $112 but wary of Euro crisis

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Brent crude rose above $112 per barrel on Tuesday after solid German and French growth data but worries over the outlook for euro zone deepened as debt yields rose and austerity measures threatened to tip the bloc into recession.

Fuel consumption closely reflects economic activity and slowing growth in Europe is likely to keep a firm lid on demand for oil in the region over the next year, economists say.

The German economy grew 0.5 percent in July-September and second quarter growth was revised up to 0.3 percent from 0.1. France expanded by 0.4 percent, after contracting 0.1 percent in the previous three months.

But the euro zone debt crisis is likely to make matters worse with countries such as Italy, Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain forced to adopt tough austerity measures in order to stop the bond market driving them towards default.

Yields on Italian 10-year bonds climbed above 7 percent, a level considered unsustainable and not far off 14-year highs around 7.5 percent hit last week before Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi stepped down.

The euro stayed close to the bottom of its range for the month, helping depress stock markets. {MKTS/GLOB]

Brent futures for December rose $1.25 to a high of $113.14 before slipping back to trade around $112.20 by 1310 GMT. The benchmark contract fell $2.27 on Monday after closing at a 15-week high on Friday. December Brent was due to expire later on Tuesday. U.S. crude oil fell 30 cents to $97.84.

"There was a short burst of enthusiasm in the market after indicators from France and Germany, but people are looking at more immediate matters and the short-term outlook, and that is not positive," said Christophe Barret, global head of oil research at French bank Credit Agricole.

The premium for Brent futures over the U.S. crude benchmark narrowed to around $14 after hitting almost a five-month low of $13.80 on Monday, with analysts saying uncertainty over the euro zone was having a bigger impact on the European benchmark than its U.S. counterpart.

Brent's premium to the Middle East marker Dubai also fell to its lowest level in nearly five months.

The Brent/Dubai Exchange of Futures for Swaps (EFS) for December notionally fell $1.09 from Monday's close to $3.30 a barrel, brokers and traders said.

RECESSION

Crude supply is on the rise in Europe as North Sea production stabilises while Libya ramps up output after the end of the country's civil war.

The higher supply is facing weak demand in Europe as refiners struggle with poor refining margins. By contrast, strong demand for Middle East crude in Asia has underpinned Dubai quotes, traders say.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries will watch market developments closely, Iran's OPEC governor Mohammad Ali Khatibi said on Tuesday.

OPEC failed to reach consensus on a production deal to contain crude oil prices at its last meeting in June. The group is scheduled to meet again in early December but is not at this stage expected to agree a deal on output levels.

Traders in Europe were most focused on the euro zone debt crisis and its implications for growth and demand.

The 17-nation euro zone economy grew a modest 0.2 percent in the third quarter from the second, the EU said on Tuesday, lifted by France and Germany, but economists say the bloc is almost certainly heading for a recession.

A nasty mix of inflation, slowing exports and rising unemployment in the euro zone bode poorly.

"We're not in recession, but we are not far from recession," Marc Touati, chief economist at French trading firm Assya Compagnie Financiere, said of Tuesday's data from France.

Expectations are that inventories in the world's top oil consumer the United States fell for the second straight time on lower imports and higher refinery runs.

On average, U.S. crude stockpiles were forecast down 1.1 million barrels for the week ended Nov. 11, a preliminary Reuters poll of analysts showed. In the week to Nov. 4, crude stocks fell 1.37 million barrels to 338.09 million.

The forecasts were issued ahead of the American Petroleum Institute's inventory report due at 4:30 p.m. EST (2130 GMT). The U.S. Energy Information Administration will issue its weekly data on Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. EST (1530 GMT). (Additional reporting by Angela Bulgari in London and Manash Goswami in Singapore)


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