Oil slips on Fed anxiety

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Tokyo - Oil prices slipped in Asian trade on Friday as dealers worried about a global oversupply in crude, while speculation the US Federal Reserve will soon scale back its stimulus programme also weighed.

New York's main contract, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for January delivery, was down nine cents at $97.41 in afternoon trade while Brent North Sea crude for January eased seven cents to $108.60.

“Investors are not only concerned about an oversupply in the US from shale oil, but also from Opec member countries like Iraq who have pledged to increase supply even if prices fall significantly,” Kelly Teoh, market strategist at IG Markets in Singapore, told AFP.

The Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) earlier this month agreed to keep its production ceiling unchanged at 30 million barrels a day.

However, pledges by its members Iraq and Iran to boost output in 2014 have raised concerns about a potential glut, as US shale oil output continues to increase.

The focus on oversupply has been exacerbated after a tribal chief in Libya said a months-long blockade by armed protesters of vital oil terminals would be lifted on December 15.

The protests as well as blockades of fuel deliveries by the Berber minority have slashed Libya's output to about 250 000 barrels per day, from normal levels of nearly 1.5 million bpd.

Prices were also under pressure as upbeat US economic data pointed towards a sustained recovery in the world's biggest economy and raised speculation the Fed will soon scale back its stimulus programme, Teoh said.

The oil market has been closely following the Fed's debate on when to wind down its $85-billion-a-month stimulus.

The onset of the Fed's so-called tapering will boost the greenback, making dollar-priced oil more expensive for countries using other currencies, dampening demand. - AFP

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