March 14, 2012 / 6:08 PM / 5 years ago

UPDATE 8-Oil falls on U.S. stock build, Iran eyed

* U.S., UK say to keep pressure on Iran
    * U.S. crude in Cushing hub at 9-month high
    * Brighter U.S. Fed outlook lifts dollar
    * Coming up: U.S. weekly jobless claims, Thursday


    By Gene Ramos	
    NEW YORK, March 14 (Reuters) - Oil futures dropped
 on Wednesday after data showed U.S. crude stockpiles
rose last week for the fourth time in a row and the dollar
strengthened, tempering investor appetite for riskier assets. 
    Trading was choppy but prices clawed back briefly in the
early afternoon after U.S. President Barack Obama, in a joint
news conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron, said
the window for a diplomatic solution with Iran over Tehran's
nuclear program was shrinking. 	
    Crude stocks at the U.S. delivery hub in Cushing, Oklahoma
surged 2.5 million barrels to a nine-month high, government data
showed. Inventories there have risen for eight straight weeks,
amassing the biggest eight-week gain since January 2009. 
 
    "WTI (West Texas Intermediate) futures are increasingly
showing the strains of a 10-million-barrel build at Cushing
since mid-January," said Jim Ritterbusch, president of
Ritterbusch & Associates in Galena, Illinois.  	
    In total, U.S. crude stockpiles increased by 1.8 million
barrels to 347.5 million barrels, weekly data from the Energy
Information Administration showed, in line with the forecast in
a Reuters poll.
    "The build in Cushing stocks has widened Brent's premium to 
$20 and you're seeing the strength in the dollar discourage
buying of riskier assets," said Hamza Khan, analyst at the
Schork Group in Villanova, Pennsylvania.
    In London, ICE Brent crude for April delivery 
settled at $124.97, down $1.25, or 0.99 percent. It settled at
$126.22 on Tuesday, the highest close for front-month Brent
since April 8, 2011.
    U.S. April crude settled at $105.43, falling $1.28,
or 1.2 percent.
    Brent's premium against U.S. crude closed at $19.54, from
$19.51 on Tuesday. 
    Brent's total trading volume dipped 14.8 percent from its
30-day average, Reuters data showed. U.S. crude volume was down
10.8 percent from its 30-day average.     
               
    DOLLAR GAINS	
    The dollar was up 0.48 percent against a basket of
currencies in late trading, hitting an 11-month high
against the yen and a one-month peak against the euro. 
    The greenback strengthened after the U.S. Federal Reserve,
in a statement issued on Tuesday following a policy meeting,
painted a moderately brighter outlook for the U.S. economy.
 Gains in the dollar can pressure dollar-denominated
commodities by making them more expensive to consumers using
other currencies.	
    In euro terms, Brent crude was just below all-time highs set
in the previous session, piling pressure on a fragile economic
recovery in Europe, which is lagging the United States and Asia.
 
    IRAN TENSIONS 
    Obama urged Tehran to seize the opportunity of talks with
world leaders to avert "even worse consequences", and said the
United States and Britain would keep up the pressure on Iran. 	
    The West suspects Iran of using its nuclear program to build
atomic weapons, which Tehran denies. The United States and the
European Union have imposed sanctions against Iran for its
disputed nuclear activities, and mounting tensions between the
Islamic Republic and the West have elevated crude oil prices.
    After dallying for days, Iran on Wednesday said it welcomed
the resumption of stalled nuclear talks with six world powers,
saying the two sides should set "the date and the venue",
Iranian media reported. 
    A Reuters/Ipsos poll showed on Tuesday that most
Americans would support U.S. military action against Iran if
there were evidence that it was building nuclear weapons, even
if such action led to higher gasoline prices. 
    Iranian oil officials, meanwhile, showed no signs of alarm
about potential international sanctions, saying their Asian
customers remain loyal. 	
     "Trading has been choppy all day, but the headlines from
Washington regarding Iran pulled prices briefly from the lows,"
said Chris Dillman, analyst at Tradition Energy in Stamford,
Connecticut.

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