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Oil prices mixed in Asian trade

Oil prices

Singapore:  Oil prices were mixed in Asia today as dealers weighed a strengthening US dollar with ongoing geopolitical tensions in the crude-rich Middle East, analysts said.

US benchmark West Texas Intermediate gained one cent to USD 50.01 while Brent eased eight cents to USD 58.45.

Singapore’s United Overseas Bank said oil remained under pressure as a stronger US dollar was “offsetting geopolitical tensions and the threat of output cuts in Libya and Iraq”.

The greenback has soared after Friday’s upbeat US jobs report for February boosted expectations for an early interest rate hike.

The dollar stood at 121.68 yen today, a three-month high and up from 121.15 yen on Monday.

A stronger greenback makes dollar-priced oil more expensive for buyers using weaker currencies, denting demand and pushing prices lower.

Intensified fighting in crude producer Libya between rival militias and the emergence there of the Islamic State group this year has raised fears in neighbouring countries of a cross-border spillover.

Fighting in the North African state, a member of the OPEC oil-producing cartel, has seen output reduced from a high of almost 1.5 million barrels a day to 150,000, according to analysts.

Iraq, another OPEC member, is also battling jihadists who spearheaded a sweeping offensive in June that overran large areas north and west of Baghdad.

Data showing inflation in China, the world’s top energy consumer, rebounded in February from a more-than-five-year low the previous month was offset by plunging factory gate prices.

Consumer price inflation jumped to 1.4 per cent in February, the government said, up from 0.8 per cent in January, although the producer price index fell 4.8 per cent, its worst reading since October 2009.

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