Oil prices fall on firmer U.S. dollar

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Worldwide benchmark Brent crude rose 37 cents, to $64.70/Bbl by 2:03 p.m. ET, on track for a roughly 3% weekly gain after falling more than 8% two weeks ago, Kallanish Energy reports. Analysts and investors are anticipating another increase in U.S. output when data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration is released Thursday, raising concerns that new production from shale will overwhelm the market again.

In the meantime, traders are looking to the Middle East for further signs that Saudi Arabia is OK with higher oil prices.

The API reported an unexpected drop in US crude oil inventories by 907,000 barrels to 420.3 million barrels for the week to February 16. The dollar is being supported by the minutes of the Federal Reserve's January monetary policy meeting which showed policymakers are confident in the need to keep raising interest rates throughout the year.

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Presumably, those focused on fundamentals must be frustrated by the fact that sentiment continues to sway the market, especially in light of recent important disclosures such as a tightening Asian market and Saudi Arabia admitting that reliable figures on stockpiles are hard to come by; Rob Thummel, portfolio manager at Tortoise Energy, on Thursday remarked, "I'm surprised that oil prices are falling today given the weaker USA dollar; now, the direction of the dollar is having a bigger impact on oil prices than fundamentals".

Overall, oil markets remain well supported due to supply restraint by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, which started previous year to draw down excess global inventories.

West Texas Intermediate, the US benchmark, was down 0.91 percent to $61.23 per barrel. Rising U.S. shale output has hindered efforts by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and other producers, led by Russian Federation, to reduce bloated global inventories and prop up oil prices by cutting output.

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Data on US inventories from the American Petroleum Institute will be released at 4:30 p.m. EST (2130 GMT) and government figures are due on Thursday at 11 a.m.

Opec has "taken a lot of production off the table, but it's just being replaced by US production to a large degree", said Bob Yawger, director of the futures division at Mizuho Securities USA Inc in NY.

US West Texas Intermediate crude futures were at $62.31 a barrel, up 63 cents, or 1%, from their last settlement, CNBC reported. Declining storage in Cushing boosted prices, and "we will continue to see that as crude is directed to the Gulf Coast" for export, he said.

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