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Oil prices fall further on strong dollar, WTI below US$50

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Oil prices fell further in Asia Tuesday, with US crude falling below US$50 a barrel as demand for the dollar-priced commodity takes a hit from a strong US currency, analysts said.

[SINGAPORE] Oil prices fell further in Asia Tuesday, with US crude falling below US$50 a barrel as demand for the dollar-priced commodity takes a hit from a strong US currency, analysts said.

Expectations of more Iranian crude flooding the oversupplied global market within months following a deal on the country's nuclear ambitions continue to drag prices lower, they said.

US benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for August delivery fell 16 cents to US$49.99 and Brent crude for September dropped 11 cents to US$56.54 a barrel in late-morning trade.

"Most of the movement that we're seeing now in oil prices mainly comes from the dollar strength," said Daniel Ang, an investment analyst with Phillip Futures in Singapore.

The dollar got a boost after Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen last week stuck to her forecast for an increase in the US central bank's key interest rate later this year, as the economy picks up pace.

A rise in interest rates will attract investors to the dollar because of the prospects of higher returns, driving up the currency's value.

Since oil is priced in dollars, a stronger US currency makes the commodity more expensive, denting demand and putting downward pressure on prices.

"Despite worries over Greece and the China stock sell-off, the Fed reiterated its intention to raise rates in 2015," Singapore's DBS Bank said in a market commentary.

"With Greece finally working with its creditors on a third bailout package, focus returned to monetary policy divergences," it said, referring to other countries cutting or planning to slash interest rates.

Research house Capital Economics said "our expectation is that the dollar's strength will continue over the next year and a half, given the contrast in the prospects for monetary policy in the US and its major trading partners".

The return of Iranian oil "is adding bearish pressure as the market is trying to price in the crude expected to be introduced by the end of the year," Mr Ang of Phillip Futures said.

Iran and six world powers last week agreed a deal curbing Tehran's nuclear programme that aims to prevent it building an atomic bomb.

In return, the West will lift crippling economic sanctions and allow Iran to ramp up crude exports.

AFP