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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 August 2006, 22:57 GMT 23:57 UK
Good news triggers oil price fall
Traders on the New York Mercantile Exchange
Traders have digested the good news of recent days
Oil prices have fallen to their lowest level in nearly two months as the continuing ceasefire in Lebanon and healthy US stockpiles calmed markets.

Traders said BP's decision to continue oil production from parts of its Prudhoe Bay field in Alaska had also triggered the price movement.

Brent crude settled down $1.83 at $70.06 a barrel while US light, sweet crude slid $1.28 to $71.58.

Despite the drop, prices are still 14% higher for the year as a whole.

Strong inventories

A series of positive developments in recent days have boosted sentiment, which had previously been hit by the conflict in Lebanon, kidnappings of foreign oil workers in Nigeria and BP's problems.

The troubles had sent Brent prices to a record high above $78 a barrel.

Some of the factors and disruptions that helped drive us to very high levels have been resolved now
Eoin O'Callaghan, BNP Paribas

On Wednesday, the US energy department reported higher-than-expected oil inventories of 331 million barrels.

Stockpiles fell by 1.6 million barrels in the week ending 11 August but the reduction was less than expected given the closure of part of Prudhoe Bay, the largest oil field in the US, due to pipe corrosion.

Inventories remain at almost their highest level since 1999.

"Some of the factors and disruptions that helped drive us to very high levels have been resolved now," said Eoin O'Callaghan, an energy analyst at BNP Paribas.

Potential problems remain just under the surface, however, with ongoing violence in the oil-rich Niger Delta and Iran's discussions with the United Nations over its nuclear ambitions reaching a delicate stage.

Iran, Opec's second largest oil producer, has said it will respond by 22 August to a package of incentives designed to persuade it to stop enriching uranium.

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