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Oil down as Iran talks back in focus; weak dollar pares loss

[NEW YORK] Oil prices fell on Thursday as focus returned to talks for a nuclear pact between Tehran and global powers that could put millions of additional Iranian crude barrels onto a market already brimming with supply.

Crude prices fell as much as 3 per cent as the marathon talks in Lausanne, Switzerland extended for a second day past its original deadline for a deal, before a weak dollar pared some of the losses.

"There are positive signs that a deal will be done for Iran with the talks continuing past the deadline, and that's weighing again on oil today," said Joseph Posillico, senior vice president of energy futures at Jefferies in New York.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said "significant progress" had been made at the talks. Diplomats said the chances of a preliminary accord in the next few hours were finely balanced.

US crude futures were down 73 cents, or almost 1.5 per cent, at US$49.36 a barrel in New York by 10:18 am EDT (1418 GMT), after falling more than US$1.70 earlier.

Futures for London-traded North Sea Brent crude, the more widely-used global benchmark for oil, were down US$1.36 to US$55.74 a barrel. It fell more than US$2 at the session low.

US crude rose 5 per cent on Wednesday and Brent about 4 per cent, rebounding from three days of losses, after US government data showed the first weekly decline since January in crude production even as crude stocks hit new highs.

On Thursday, separate data from the US government showed crude oil exports fell to 428,000 barrels per day in February compared with 491,000 bpd in January.


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