October 12, 2015 / 12:50 AM / 2 years ago

Oil slides; Fed bets keep greenback under pressure

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Crude oil futures tumbled on Monday on profit-taking and a report of higher OPEC production, while pressure lingered on the U.S. dollar as markets priced the possibility that the Federal Reserve would not begin a tightening cycle this year.

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange September 23, 2015. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/Files

U.S. stocks edged up, led by utilities, while commodity-related stocks accounted for the bulk of the losses on the S&P 500.

Federal Reserve Vice-Chairman Stanley Fischer said on Sunday that policymakers are still likely to raise interest rates this year, however, that is “an expectation, not a commitment,” and could change if the global economy pushes the U.S. economy further off course.

Crude oil futures CLc1 settled 5.1 percent lower after gaining almost 9 percent last week, with Brent LCOc1 posting its largest daily drop in six weeks, down 5.3 percent.

Secondary sources cited in OPEC’s monthly report said the group pumped 31.57 million barrels per day in September, up 110,000 bpd from August.

The U.S. bond market was closed for the Columbus Day holiday.

On Wall Street, stocks ended slightly higher. But utility stocks, often traded in lieu of bonds due to their perceived lower risk and high dividends, outperformed with a 0.9 percent advance by the S&P 500 utilities index .SPLRCU.

Energy .SPNY was the biggest decliner among the major S&P 500 sectors as crude oil prices slid.

Traders are “taking profits on some very nice moves, particularly on the oil patch,” said Jim Paulsen, chief investment officer at Wells Capital Management in Minneapolis.

He said the gains in utility stocks showed “people are getting a little defensive.”

The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI rose 47.37 points, or 0.28 percent, to 17,131.86, the S&P 500 .SPX gained 2.57 points, or 0.13 percent, to 2,017.46 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC added 8.17 points, or 0.17 percent, to 4,838.64.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index .FTEU3 and the euro zone’s blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 index .STOXX50E both fell slightly after rallying last week. MSCI’s all-country world equity index .MIWD00000PUS was up 0.1 percent.

Overnight, Chinese stocks .SSEC jumped more than 3 percent in heavy volume to end at their highest since Aug. 21. China’s central bank took fresh steps to inject liquidity into the economy and said the stock market’s correction “is almost over.”

Nikkei futures NKc1 were up less than 0.1 percent.

OIL OFF DESPITE PRESSURE ON GREENBACK

Brent settled below $50 a barrel on its biggest daily percentage decline since the start of September. U.S. light crude settled down 5.1 percent at $47.10.

“The OPEC demand forecast for 2016 ... suggests some concern about the strength of demand next year. We are primarily wary of this risk,” said Richard Hastings, macro strategist at North Carolina-based Global Hunter Securities.

The dollar slipped to a three-week low versus a basket of major currencies .DXY on doubts whether the Fed would raise interest rates later this year in the face of a weakening global economy.

The euro was up 0.1 percent at $1.1364 and the yen was 0.2 percent stronger at 120 to the greenback.

China’s yuan firmed as far as 6.3175 to the dollar, its strongest since the Aug. 11 devaluation.

Spot gold hit its highest since early July on bets the Fed will delay its expected rate hike beyond the end of the year. Gold rose 0.5 percent after gaining 1.7 percent last week.

Copper rose 0.4 percent following a near 4 percent gain last week after production cuts by Glencore (GLEN.L) boosted base metals. But analysts warned the shift in output may not be enough to offset weak demand growth in China.

Additional reporting by Koustav Samanta and Richard Leong; Editing by Nick Zieminski

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