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London: Brent oil prices fell back under USD 100 per barrel today after Norway acted to end an oil workers' strike, while sentiment was also hit by news of weak Chinese crude imports. Brent North Sea crude for delivery in August shed USD 1.51 to USD 98.81 per barrel in late afternoon deals in London. New York's main contract, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude for August, shed USD 1.02 to stand at USD 84.97 a barrel.
"Prices gave back Monday's gains to slide lower as Norway's government intervened in a labour strike and ordered a last-minute settlement to prevent a full closure of its oil industry," said Sucden analyst Myrto Sokou.
"It should be noted that the oil strikes in Norway that started two weeks ago, had already cut oil production by 13 percent from the world's No 8 producer. "Following these tentative conditions in Norway, Brent oil retreated today and tested the USD 99 per barrel area, while WTI crude oil consolidated around USD 85 per barrel." Norwegian oil fields ramped up output today after the government intervened to end a 16-day strike that would have halted production by western Europe's largest crude exporter.
"The strike is over," labour ministry spokesman Jan Richard Kjelstrup told AFP after the last-minute deal that sent North Sea crude prices plunging below the key USD 100 threshold in Asian trading. Norway's state-owned giant Statoil, the group most hit by the strike, said it was ramping up to resume production at sites affected by the movement and expected normal output levels by the end of the week.
The government's move to settle the dispute angered unions, who said their negotiation options had been narrowed. "We are very disappointed," said Martin Sheen, who represents the Industri Energi union. "We think it was not necessary at all."