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Oil prices turn negative on strong dollar after hitting 18-month highs

Oil prices

The US dollar hit a 14-year high, leading to a small drop in oil prices on Tuesday.  ConocoPhillips photo.

Oil prices hit highest levels since July, 2015

By Scott DiSavino

NEW YORK, Jan 3 (Reuters) – Oil prices turned negative after earlier hitting 18-month highs on Tuesday, the first trading day of 2017, as the U.S. dollar rallied to its highest since 2002.

Traders said crude prices were buoyed earlier in the day by hopes that a deal between OPEC and other big oil exporters to cut production, which kicked in on Sunday, will drain a global supply glut.

Brent futures were down 95 cents, or 1.7 per cent, at $55.87 a barrel by 12:05 p.m. EST (1705 GMT). U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude fell 95 cents, or 1.8 per cent, to $52.77 per barrel.

Earlier in the session, both oil contracts hit their highest levels since July 2015 with Brent reaching $58.37 and U.S. $55.24, before paring gains on the strong U.S. dollar.

“The dollar strength is certainly weighing on oil prices,” said Andrew Lipow, president of energy consulting firm Lipow Oil Associates in Houston, noting U.S. stock markets also pared their gains from earlier in the day with the dollar rally.

The dollar hit a 14-year high against a basket of other currencies after data showed U.S. manufacturing activity grew more than expected in November.

A stronger greenback pressures demand for dollar-denominated crude, making barrels more expensive for users of other currencies.

Oil futures exchanges were closed on Monday for New Year public holidays.

“WTI was off to a strong start to this New Year with some support developing off of reports that Kuwait and Oman are already in progress of enacting agreed upon cuts,” Jim Ritterbusch, president of Chicago-based energy advisory firm Ritterbusch & Associates, said in a note.

Jan. 1 marked the official start of a deal agreed by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and other exporters such as Russia to reduce output by almost 1.8 million barrels per day (b/d).

Non-OPEC Middle Eastern oil producer Oman told customers last week that it would cut its crude oil term allocation volumes by 5 per cent in March.

Elsewhere, Libya, one of two OPEC countries exempt from the output cuts, has increased its production to 685,000 b/d, from around 600,000 b/d in December, an official at the National Oil Corporation said on Sunday.

Non-OPEC Russia’s oil production in December remained unchanged at 11.21 million b/d, near a 30-year high, but it was preparing to cut output by 300,000 b/d in the first half of 2017 in its contribution to the accord.

(Additional reporting by Christopher Johnson in London and Jane Chung in Seoul; Editing by Marguerita Choy and David Evans)

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