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Oil down, heads for 6th weekly loss on gasoline glut

[NEW YORK] Crude oil dipped on Friday, plumbing multi-month lows and headed for a sixth straight week of losses, pressured by tumbling gasoline prices as the approaching end of the US summer driving season suggested a growing surplus in fuel supply.

The dollar's rise to a 3-1/2 month high against a basket of currencies after strong US jobs growth in July also weighed on oil and other commodities denominated in the greenback.

Traders and investors were awaiting the latest weekly reading on the US oil rig count from industry firm Baker Hughes at 1:00 pm EDT (1700 GMT) for signs on whether crude production could rise from higher drilling activity. Drillers have added 26 oil rigs in the past two weeks.

Brent, the global oil benchmark, has traded at six-month lows and US crude at a 4-1/2 month trough since Wednesday after government data showed US gasoline stocks exceeding market estimates last week by about 300,000 barrels.

Brent was down 70 cents, or 1.5 per cent, at $48.82 a barrel by 11:25 am EDT (1525 GMT), after hitting a Jan. 30 low of $48.55.

US crude slipped 50 cents, or 1.1 per cent, to $44.16 a barrel. It hit a March 20 bottom of $43.94 earlier.

Analysts said seasonal refinery maintenance and stock builds in key oil products such as distillates, which include diesel, could drag heavily on crude futures in coming months.

Gasoline sank by more than 1.4 per cent to 5-1/2 month lows on Friday, and ultra-low-sulfur diesel traded not far from six-year lows set earlier in the week.

"The summer driving season is fading and we could see a quick ramp up in gasoline stocks," said Chris Jarvis, analyst at Caprock Risk Management in Frederick, Maryland. "We've had record refining heading out of the driving season that should translate into higher stocks of refined products in fall and winter."