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Oil slips below $104 as Libya set to boost exports

The price of oil slipped below $104 a barrel Monday as expectations that Libya will soon boost its exports of crude offset strong U.S. job growth.

By early afternoon in Europe, benchmark U.S. crude for August delivery was down 19 cents to $103.87 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, was down 37 cents at $110.63 on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

Crude fell despite signs the U.S. economy is steadily improving, which typically would increase demand. Employment grew by an unexpectedly large 288,000 workers in June.

Oil has been sliding since it reached a 10-month closing high of $107.26 on June 20 due to concern about an advance by Islamic militants in controlling Iraqi territory. Since then, it has become clear that there are no imminent disruptions to supplies from Iraq, OPEC's second-biggest producer.

On top of that, an agreement in Libya between the central government and a regional militia was expected to lead to the reopening of two eastern oil terminals that would boost the country's crude exports by about 500,000 barrels a day. Libya currently produces around 350,000 barrels of oil a day.

While some analysts said it was only a matter of days before crude shipments could be again on their way from the ports of Es Sider and Ras Lanuf, others were more cautious.

"We would not expect to see a resumption of exports from the facilities this month assuming that no field maintenance was done since the shutdown of close to one year," said a note to clients from JBC Energy in Vienna.

In other energy futures trading on the Nymex:

- Wholesale gasoline was down 1.38 cents to $3.006 a gallon.

- Natural gas lost 9.5 cents to $4.311 per 1,000 cubic feet.

- Heating oil fell 0.77 cent to $2.9207 a gallon.

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