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Oil down on strong dollar, high crude supplies, lower Chinese imports

By Henning Gloystein

SINGAPORE Oil prices fell over 1 percent on Friday, dragged by a strong dollar, rising Saudi supplies to Asian clients, and a fall in Chinese imports.

Brent crude futures were trading at $48.42 at 0753 GMT, down 58 cents, or 1.2 percent, from their last close, although overall activity was thin after the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday and ahead of the weekend.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $47.41 per barrel, down 55 cents, or 1.2 percent, from their last settlement.

Traders said the main drag on prices on Friday was the strong dollar, which this week hit levels last seen in 2003 against a basket of other leading currencies .DXY, as it could crimp fuel demand due to higher dollar costs.

Reports that Saudi Aramco would in January increase oil supplies to some Asian customers also weighed on markets, traders said.

A Saudi-led plan to agree on crude output cuts from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and other producers next week would only impact supplies from February 2017 as most exporters sell their supplies two months ahead.

Saudi’s late push for more exports to Asia comes as Russia has stolen its place as top supplier to China, the world’s biggest crude importer and growth market despite a monthly drop in imports in October. This is a strong indicator that Riyadh’s policy to let prices slide in order to defend market share has not had the desired effect.

Now, led by Saudi Arabia, OPEC is due to meet on Nov. 30 to coordinate a cut, potentially with non-OPEC members like Russia, the world’s largest producer, but there is disagreement within the producer cartel as to which member states should cut and by how much.

Most analysts expect some form of a production cut, though it is uncertain whether this will be enough to prop up a market that has been dogged by oversupply since 2014.

“We do expect some form of agreement, but oil market reaction will hinge on the credibility of the proposed action,” said U.S. investment bank Jefferies on Friday, adding that recent output increases to record levels in many countries now required a deep cut for it to significantly lift oil prices.

“The surge in OPEC output since August has shifted the market back into oversupply and re-balancing will be deferred until the second half of 2017 without a cut of at least 700,000 barrels per day,” Jefferies said.

(Reporting by Henning Gloystein; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)