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Oil sinks on supply worries; sterling drops on May comments

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) shortly after the opening bell in New York, U.S., January 9, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

By Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Oil prices fell on Monday on fears that record Iraqi crude exports and growing U.S. output could undermine OPEC's efforts to reduce supply, while sterling slumped on comments by British Prime Minister Theresa May suggesting what could be an aggressive exit from the European Union.

Sterling was the big mover in the currency market, falling nearly 1 percent against the dollar to more than two-month lows after May's remarks. May said she was willing to sacrifice the country's single-market membership for more control over its borders.

U.S. Treasury yields retreated in line with British bond yields after the comments.

The drop in oil prices weighed on energy stocks on Wall Street and the Dow Jones Industrial Average moved further from hitting the historic and widely awaited 20,000 mark.

"The (oil) price weakness ... calls attention to some bearish news that the market had been willing to ignore, such as the high level of (fourth-quarter) supply still in transit to consumers and the uptrend in U.S. drilling rigs and actual oil production," said Tim Evans, energy futures specialist at Citigroup.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries agreed in November to cut output for the first time since the global financial crisis more than eight years ago.

In late trading, Brent crude (LCOc1) fell $2.25, or 2.87 percent, at $54.85 a barrel, while U.S. crude futures slid (CLc1) slid nearly 4 percent to $51.87 per barrel.

In the U.S. equity market, declines in energy and financial stocks pressured the S&P 500 and hampered the Dow's pursuit of the 20,000 milestone ahead of earnings season and U.S. policy changes under President-elect Donald Trump.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (.DJI) fell 76.42 points, or 0.4 percent, to 19,887.38, while the S&P 500 (.SPX) was down 8.08 points, or 0.4 percent, at 2,268.9.

A gain in technology stocks lifted the Nasdaq Composite (.IXIC) to an intra-day record high, and it was last trading up 0.2 percent at 5,531.82.

U.S. government bond prices rose, with the 10-year note up 12/32 in price to yield 2.372 percent, compared with 2.418 percent late on Friday.

German 10-year yields , the benchmark for euro zone borrowing costs, fell and last stood at 0.28 percent.

Analysts said a softer dollar weighed on U.S. Treasuries yields. The dollar slid against the safe-haven yen as risk appetite declined, while sterling sank to more than two-month lows.

Sterling was last down 0.9 percent at $1.2163 (GBP=D4).

"Anything that suggests a hard Brexit is more likely ... is very damaging to UK growth prospects," said Richard Franulovich, senior currency strategist at Westpac Banking Corp in New York.

The dollar index (.DXY), which tracks the greenback versus a basket of six currencies, fell 0.23 percent to 101.98. The greenback was down 0.7 percent against the yen at 116.09 (JPY=).

The euro (EUR=) was last up 0.4 percent, at $1.0567, while Europe's broad FTSEurofirst 300 index (.FTEU3) dropped 0.5 percent to 1,437.72.

In Asia, MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan <.MIAPJ0000PUS> rose 1.1 points or 0.25 percent, to 438.77. Australia's S&P/ASX200 (.AXJO) rose 0.9 percent while Hong Kong shares (.HSI) rose 0.2 percent.

Trading was light because Japan was shut for a holiday.

The MSCI world equity index <.MIWD00000PUS>, which tracks shares in 45 nations, fell 0.13 percent to 429.11.

A focus for the week will be a news conference on Wednesday at which Trump may give more details about the policies he will seek to implement after he takes office on Jan. 20.

Expectations of more economic stimulus from a Trump administration have helped boost U.S. stocks and bond yields.

(Reporting by Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss; Additional reporting by Catherine Ngai, Sam Forgione, and Richard Leong in New York, Yashaswini Swamynathan in Bengaluru; Editing by Dan Grebler and Meredith Mazzilli)