Oil prices settle flat despite rising dollar, trade volatile

Thu Dec 15, 2016 3:42pm EST
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By Scott DiSavino

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Oil settled little changed on Thursday after sliding to its lowest level in a week in volatile trade, but a surging dollar did not pressure prices below technical support levels as OPEC members told customers they would cut crude supplies.

Oil tumbled early as the dollar rallied near a 14-year high against a basket of other currencies the day after the Federal Reserve raised U.S. interest rates for the first time in a year. The Fed also hinted rates in 2017 could rise more quickly than investors had anticipated.

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

Brent futures for February delivery gained 12 cents, or 0.2 percent, to settle at $54.02 per barrel, while U.S. crude lost 14 cents, or 0.3 percent, to settle at $50.90, its lowest close in a week.

"It was hard for crude to pick a direction. The market declined earlier in the day on the strong dollar and reports this week that U.S. production was increasing," said James Williams, president of energy consultant WTRG Economics in Arkansas, citing North Dakota's production data.

"But crude ended little changed following a technical bounce and on continued reports that OPEC members were telling customers to expect delivery cuts," Williams said.

Early in the session, Brent tested the $53 support level, falling as low as $53.15 a barrel, its lowest since Dec. 8.

"We saw some buying because there is too much optimism OPEC will cut output for Brent to trade below $53," said Troy Vincent, an oil analyst at ClipperData in Louisville, Kentucky.   Continued...

A general view of the Centenario deep-water oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Veracruz, Mexico January 17, 2014. REUTERS/Henry Romero