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Oil at 2-week low as Syria strike fears ebb

London, September 10, 2013

Global oil prices fell towards $112 a barrel on Tuesday, touching their lowest level in two weeks as a Russian proposal to avert a U.S. strike on Syria gathered steam, easing concerns that a new Middle East conflict would further disrupt supplies.

Benchmark Brent crude hit a session low after Russia offered to help put Syria's chemical weapons under international control and U.S. President Barack Obama said he saw a possible breakthrough in the crisis.

Oil prices recovered when upbeat Chinese data raised expectations of a rebound in demand from the world's No. 2 oil consumer, but resumed their decline after the Russian Interfax news agency said Syria had accepted Moscow's plan.

Brent for October delivery was down $1.58 at $112.14 per barrel by 1137 GMT, its weakest level since Aug. 27.

U.S. crude dropped $2 to $107.52 a barrel.

"In terms of Syria impact, I don't think Brent will have further to go down on that. Maybe it will reach $112 if you see some returns in Libya supply," said Bjarne Schieldrop, chief commodity analyst at SEB.

"It seems Obama's wish is that this would become true, that they can place the chemical weapons under international protection so there is not an immediate attack."

Brent had climbed to six-month peaks above $117 and West Texas Intermediate hit a more than two-year high of $112.24 late last month on worries that a possible U.S.-led military strike against Syria may disrupt oil supplies from the Middle East. Some of that geopolitical risk premium is now coming off.

The crude benchmark fell 2.1 percent on Monday, its steepest single-day decline since June 20, driven partly by receding expectations of a U.S. strike on Syria and partly by growing speculation that some Libyan supplies may come back online.

Last week, Libya's oil output hit a post-war low of just 150,000 barrels per day compared to its capacity of 1.6 million bpd. Exports have fallen to 80,000 bpd.

No deal has been reached between Libya's government and various protest groups that have paralysed its oil production since the end of July, but a crisis committee tasked with resolving the problem will brief Libya's parliament on Tuesday.

"We see Libyan production remaining around 500,000 barrels below its potential level for the remainder of the year," JBC analysts wrote in their daily report.

"This together with Saudi Arabia reportedly producing above 10 million barrels per day will continue to keep the downside to prices limited, even if the Syrian situation is resolved without international military action."

Obama is slated to address his nation on Tuesday night and to speak to lawmakers during the day.

Also putting a floor under oil price declines is a spate of positive Chinese data that has boosted the outlook for demand.

China's industrial output rose a forecast-beating 10.4 percent in August from a year ago, while retail sales increased 13.4 percent, government data showed on Tuesday.

Those numbers added to evidence that the Chinese economy may avoid a sharp slowdown after data over the past two days showed exports rose more than predicted in August and inflation remained tame.

"It's a plus for the demand outlook for industrial commodities generally and builds on the positive picture we've been seeing out of China for the past couple of months," said Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets. – Reuters




Tags: Oil | Brent | London | Global prices | Syria strike |

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