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Oil prices fall after Brussels attacks, Libya to skip Doha

Three explosions rocked Brussels Tuesday morning, killing more than 30 people and injuring many more in what authorities have said were terror attacks. Here's what we know about the attacks so far. Photo: Facebook/Ketevan Kardava

By Amanda Cooper

LONDON (Reuters) - Oil prices fell on Tuesday, after deadly blasts in Brussels prompted a flight towards traditional investment havens such as gold, and after OPEC member Libya said it would not attend a meeting to discuss a supply freeze.

Thirty-four people were killed in attacks on Brussels airport and a rush-hour metro train in the Belgian capital on Tuesday, according to public broadcaster VRT, triggering security alerts across Europe and bringing some cross-border traffic to a halt.

Oil had risen earlier in the session following a drop in U.S. inventory levels that helped ease some of the concern around oversupply that could dampen future price recoveries.

Libya said it would not attend a gathering in Doha next month intended to help OPEC and major producers outside the cartel to cut a deal to keep output at January's levels.

Brent crude futures (LCOc1) were down 16 cents at $41.38 a barrel by 1409 GMT, having eased from a session high of $41.75. Brent has gained over 50 percent from January's 12-year lows.

U.S. May crude futures (CLc1) were down 39 cents at $41.13.

"It's this 'risk-off' sentiment weighing on prices," Commerzbank strategist Eugen Weinberg said.

Oil's near-50 percent rise in the last six weeks has brought the price to its highest levels so far this year, above $42 a barrel, forcing many of those who were betting against the market to reverse those positions.

"I would't be surprised to see some market participants ... saying the price increase that we've had has been enough, over 30 percent in just a few weeks might be excessive. So in the short term, I wouldn't be surprised to see some profit-taking."

The dollar index (.DXY), gold (XAU=) and German Bunds , all perceived to be less risky options at times of geopolitical or financial uncertainty, rallied in price. Equities came under pressure, led by steep falls in airline and other travel stocks (.SXTP), after the attacks.

U.S. crude stockpiles at the Cushing, Oklahoma hub fell 570,574 barrels to 69.05 million in the week to March 18, traders said on Monday, citing data from market intelligence firm Genscape.

"Oil and a number of other markets have reached a bit of a pause phase," said Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets.

"For oil we have had a substantial rally. A lot of that has been preemptive in nature, preempting production cuts, and assisted by the weaker U.S. dollar," he said.

Iran has yet to say whether it will join the April meeting, but its officials have made clear Tehran wants to raise exports following the lifting of international sanctions in early 2016.

(Additional reporting by Aaron Sheldrick in Tokyo; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)