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Oil nears USD 50 as US inventories fall


Singapore : Oil prices edged towards USD 50 a barrel in Asia today after a larger-than-expected dip in US stockpiles resulting from wildfires that have disrupted oil production in Canada.

The American Petroleum Institute yesterday reported that crude inventories dropped by 5.14 million barrels last week, Bloomberg News reported. Data from the Energy Information Administration due later today are likely to confirm the fall in supplies.

There have been high expectations of a decline in stockpiles because of wildfires in western provinces of Canada, the biggest supplier of crude to the US market.

“Estimates suggested that output was reduced by over a million barrels per day. This is expected to be reflected when the US Department of Energy releases crude inventories tonight as the market eyes USD 50 per barrel,” CMC Markets client services executive Alex Furber wrote in a note.

At about 0830 IST, US benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for July delivery was up 62 cents, or 1.28 per cent, at USD 49.24 a barrel after closing at a seven-month high in New York.

European benchmark Brent North Sea oil was up 55 cents, or 1.13 per cent, at USD 49.16 a barrel.

Crude prices have rebounded since plunging to near 13-year lows below USD 30 a barrel in February amid abundant global supplies. But they are still well short of peaks of more than USD 100 reached in June 2014.

There are concerns that a strong dollar – bolstered by talk of the Federal Reserve raising interest rates as soon as June – and Canadian producers coming back online may curb gains.

“Prices have been weighed down by a strong dollar, and glut concerns as production from top exporters increases,” Singapore’s UOB Bank wrote in a note to clients.

A stronger US dollar makes dollar-priced commodities like oil more expensive, curtailing demand.

Major exporter Iran has also vowed to keep up oil prod uction after the lifting of Western sanctions in January.

Markets are now eyeing a June 2 OPEC meeting in Vienna where it is hoped a deal on reducing production can be reached.

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