* Sees investments falling further in coming years
* 2016 oil output seen at 1.53 mln barrels/day
* 2016 gas output seen at 106.6 bln cubic metres (Adds detail)
STAVANGER, Norway, Jan 14 (Reuters) - Investments in Norway’s key oil and gas sector will fall further in 2016 and in the coming years following a 16-percent drop in 2015, the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (NPD) said on Thursday, suggesting more pain ahead for the country’s economy.
Norway’s economy, long one of Europe’s best performers, has begun to struggle as its main industry, oil production, is hit by a three-quarters fall in the price of Brent crude since June 2014.
The NPD now sees investments, excluding exploration, falling to 135 billion crowns ($15.3 billion) in 2016 from close to 150 billion in 2015. It predicted a moderate rebound in investments from 2019 onwards.
Its 2016 investment forecast was revised down from an estimate of 137 billion made a year ago, echoing recent forecast cuts by the central bank and Statistics Norway.
“They (investments) are expected to continue their decline going forward, followed by a moderate increase from 2019,” the NPD said in a statement.
The directorate noted, however, that its current investment forecasts presume the oil price will increase from today’s level in the near future.
“If this presumption proves wrong, and oil prices remain at the current level for a longer period, this could entail further postponement of activities, resulting in even lower investments and exploration costs,” it said.
In terms of production, Norway’s oil output will drop to 1.53 million barrels per day in 2016 and 1.41 million in 2020 from 1.57 million in 2015, the NPD estimated.
Norwegian gas production will fall to 106.6 billion cubic metres in 2016 from last year’s 117.2 billion, rising again to 111.1 billion by 2020, it said.
The directorate said low prices led to oil companies not developing certain hydrocarbon fields. More than half of Norway’s oil and gas resources have yet to be produced.
“We see a tendency for the companies to prioritise short-term earnings rather than long-term value creation,” NPD chief Bente Nyland said in a statement.
On the positive side, the directorate said oil firms’ efforts to cut costs led to more oil development projects becoming more profitable.
Norway’s top oil producers include Statoil, Shell , ConocoPhillips, BP, Det norske and Lundin Petroleum.
$1 = 8.8169 Norwegian crowns Reporting by Stine Jacobsen, writing by Gwladys Fouche; Editing by Terje Solsvik and Mark Potter