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Oil falls to US$55 as Kuwait comments refocus on oversupply

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Brent crude oil fell back to $55 a barrel on Thursday after Kuwait said Opec had no choice but to keep production steady, refocusing the market on global oversupply as the dollar recovered from sharp losses in the previous session.

[LONDON] Brent crude oil fell back to $55 a barrel on Thursday after Kuwait said Opec had no choice but to keep production steady, refocusing the market on global oversupply as the dollar recovered from sharp losses in the previous session.

Brent had rallied by more than US$2 a barrel on Wednesday after the Federal Reserve indicated it would follow a more gradual path to raising US interest rates, overshadowing data showing US crude stocks at a record level.

The dollar fell by its most in six years after the comments from the Fed, boosting oil and metals priced in the greenback as they became cheaper for holders of other currencies. But on Thursday, the dollar snapped back by more than one per cent.

Brent for May delivery was down 77 cents at US$55.14 a barrel by 0907 GMT, having hit a low for the session of US$54.87 and after rising almost 4.5 per cent on Wednesday. Brent fell from highs above US$115 last June to near US$45 in January.

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US crude for April delivery fell by US$1.44 to US$43.22 a barrel, after hitting US$42.91, close to a six-year low. Its discount to Brent stood just under US$10 a barrel.

Kuwait's oil minister said on Thursday he was concerned by the 50 per cent drop in oil prices since last summer because of its impact on the Gulf Arab state's budget, but said Opec had no choice but to keep output steady.

"We don't want to lose our share in the market," Ali al-Omair told reporters.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries decided in November to maintain production levels even if it meant lower prices, as the group feared fast-growing US shale output threatened its position.

While higher-cost US production is expected eventually to be slowed by the drop in price, so far output has continued to rise, boosting crude inventories to their highest-ever level.

US crude stocks rose by a further 9.6 million barrels last week, data from the Energy Information Administration showed, while stocks at the US benchmark contract's delivery point in Cushing, Oklahoma hit the highest on record.

A pushback in the timing of US interest rate increases could give oil producers more breathing space for financing, Daniel Ang, an analyst at Phillip Futures, said in a note.

"Oil producers (will be) able to expand their businesses or even tide across this period of low prices with cheaper financing," Mr Ang wrote.

REUTERS

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