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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Crude oil dipped on Friday, plumbing multi-month lows and heading for a sixth straight week of losses, as the approaching end of the U.S. summer driving season suggested a growing surplus in gasoline supply.
Oilfield services firm Baker Hughes' report that the U.S. oil rig count rose by six this week added to the bearish sentiment for crude as it signaled production could creep up from higher drilling activity. Drillers have added a total of 32 oil rigs over the past three weeks. [RIG/U]
Traders and investors await Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) data at 3:30 p.m. EDT to determine if money managers again had slashed their bullish exposure to U.S. crude in the week to Aug 4. Hedge funds' net longs in U.S. crude fell to near five-year lows in the two previous weeks.
Government data showing U.S. gasoline stocks exceeded market estimates by about 300,000 barrels last week has pushed global oil benchmark Brent to six-month lows and U.S. crude to a 4-1/2-month trough since Wednesday. [EIA/S]
Brent LCOc1 settled down 91 cents, or 1.8 percent, at $48.61 a barrel on Friday, after touching a more than six-month low of $48.45.
U.S. crude CLc1 closed down 79 cents, or 1.8 percent, at $43.87, after hitting a more than four-month session low of $43.80.
Brent was down 7 percent for the week. It fell 23 percent over the past six weeks.
U.S. crude also slid 7 percent on the week and lost 26 percent in the last six weeks.
Analysts said crude futures could be pressured in coming months by seasonal refinery maintenance and stock builds in key oil products such as distillates, which include diesel.
Gasoline RBc1 hit a 5-1/2-month low on Friday. It tumbled 12 percent on the week, its sharpest weekly loss in almost six years. Ultra-low-sulfur diesel HOc1 fell nearly 3 percent on the week after hitting a six-year bottom on Wednesday.
"The summer driving season is fading and we could see a quick ramp-up in gasoline stocks," said Chris Jarvis, analyst at Caprock Risk Management in Frederick, Maryland.
"We've had record refining heading out of the driving season that should translate into higher stocks of refined products in fall and winter."
Additional reporting by Libby George in London and Aaron Sheldrick in Tokyo; Editing by Susan Thomas, David Gregorio and Paul Simao