Oil drops on signs of rising supply; Brent below $111

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Oil dipped on Friday with Brent futures dropping below $111 a barrel on the prospect of revived Libyan exports and more U.S. crude soon finding its way to refiners, but losses were tempered by economic data pointing to a stronger demand outlook.

Brent crude fell 36 cents to settle at $110.64 a barrel, losing more than 2 percent this week.

U.S. oil lost 29 cents to $103.77 a barrel and was set to end the week down 1.9 percent after seven straight days of losses. Trade was extremely thin due to the Fourth of July holiday in the United States.

"We have been in a corrective phase for oil prices over the past three sessions as the market comes to acknowledge that we have no disruption in southern Iraqi oil production or exports," said Harry Tchilinguirian, head of commodity market strategy at BNP Paribas in London.

"We are seeing relative weakness in Brent compared to WTI since yesterday due to the news of the possible return of oil terminals in Libya to government control."

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The WTI-Brent spread has tightened by about $1 to $6.94 a barrel in the last week.

In the United States, the near-completion of the Seaway pipeline means an extra 450,000 barrels per day (bpd) of shale oil will soon be sent to U.S. Gulf Coast refiners, further reducing their need of foreign oil, a bearish signal for the market.

The reopening of Libya's eastern Es Sider and Ras Lanuf terminals will add around 500,000 bpd of oil exports to markets after the end of a deadlock with local leaders that had cut exports from the OPEC member to a trickle.

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"The market is kind of balanced at the moment with negative and positive news balancing each other," said Eugen Weinberg, analyst at Commerzbank in Frankfurt. "We have geopolitical tensions in the Ukraine, Middle East and positive (factors) with Enterprise finishing the Seaway loop ... and Libyan port reopenings."

The prospect of rising Iranian exports should sanctions ease remained a factor for oil markets, with investors sensitive to signs of progress in talks to end a dispute over Tehran's nuclear program.

Iran has reduced demands for the size of its future nuclear enrichment program although the West is urging Tehran to compromise further.

Demand outlook

On the demand front, data on Thursday showed U.S. employment growth jumped in June and the jobless rate closed in on a six-year low, evidence the economy was growing briskly heading into the second half of the year.

The signs of growth from the United States closely followed data from China that showed factory activity there hit multimonth highs in June, adding to sentiment that demand for oil would remain solid.

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World stock markets were enjoying the view from record highs on Friday, lifted by a strong week of U.S. economic data and promises from the European Central Bank that cheap money will be sloshing around for years.

But investors were still nervous about the unfolding crisis in OPEC's second-largest producer, Iraq. Its autonomous Kurdish region has hit back at Baghdad over independent oil exports, with the Kurdistan Regional Government threatening in a letter to countersue the central government for trying to block its sales.

Also, militants from the Islamic State group seized Syria's largest oil field from rival Islamist fighters on Thursday, strengthening their advance across the eastern Deir al-Zor province, an opposition monitoring group said.

However, the change in control of the field should have little impact on global oil markets. Syria is not a significant producer and has not exported any oil since late 2011.

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--By Reuters