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Oil prices fall on strong dollar, U.S. output rise expectations

By Scott DiSavino

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Oil prices fell on Wednesday to their lowest in a week, on a strong dollar and expectations that U.S. producers would boost output even as OPEC's output fell from a record high.

U.S. shale production is set to snap a three-month decline in February, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said on Tuesday, as energy firms boost drilling activity.

Brent crude ended the session at $53.92 per barrel, down $1.55 or 2.79 percent, while U.S. crude settled at $51.08, down $1.40, or 2.67 percent. Ahead of settlement, both contracts sank to their lowest since Jan. 11.

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Prices briefly pared losses in post-settlement trade after data from the American Petroleum Institute (API) showed that U.S. crude stocks decreased by 5.04 million barrels in the week to Jan. 13. Analysts had expected a decrease of 342,000 barrels. [API/S]

Weekly inventory data from the EIA will be released on Thursday at 11 a.m. EST (1600 GMT), delayed a day because of the United States' Martin Luther King Jr. holiday on Monday.

The dollar strengthened against a basket of currencies, rising about 0.6 percent, which pressured greenback-denominated oil.

The EIA projected oil production in the biggest U.S. shale fields would rise by 40,750 barrels per day (bpd) to 4.748 million bpd in February.

"The petroleum markets have turned lower again in Wednesday trade amid talk that higher oil prices will translate into additional U.S. shale-oil production as a counter-balance to OPEC efforts to trim supply and reduce excess inventories," Tim Evans, Citi Futures' energy futures specialist, said in a note.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) signaled a shrinking global oil surplus. However, OPEC's monthly report also said U.S. output could rebound as higher oil prices following supply cuts by other producers support increased shale drilling.

"OPEC's regular dose of bullish rhetoric intending to prop up values has begun to wear thin," Jim Ritterbusch, president of Chicago-based energy advisory firm Ritterbusch & Associates, said in a note.

OPEC, excluding Indonesia, pumped 33.085 million bpd last month, according to figures OPEC collects from secondary sources, down 221,000 bpd from November, OPEC said in a monthly report on Wednesday. The figures showed the biggest reduction came from Saudi Arabia.

OPEC, Russia and other non-OPEC producers in November and December pledged to cut oil output by nearly 1.8 million bpd, initially for six months, to bring supplies back in line with consumption.

(Additional reporting by Devika Krishna Kumar in New York, Ahmad Ghaddar in London and Naveen Thukral in Singapore. Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Lisa Shumaker and David Gregorio)

 
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