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Oil prices rise on weak dollar, OPEC output cuts

A general view of a crude oil importing port in Qingdao, Shandong province, November 9, 2008. REUTERS/Stringer/File Photo

By Devika Krishna Kumar

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Oil prices rose nearly 2 percent on Tuesday after news OPEC oil production has fallen sharply this month and the dollar sank.

A Reuters survey showed that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries in January achieved 82 percent compliance with its promised production cuts, well above most market forecasts.

"This is very high, a good number," an OPEC source said of the January compliance estimate.

The dollar (.DXY) was down by 0.9 percent versus a basket of currencies, boosting greenback-denominated oil. The dollar was on course for its biggest monthly decline since March.

Brent crude oil (LCOc1) was up 67 cents a barrel at $55.90 by 11:22 a.m. EST (1622 GMT). U.S. light crude (CLc1) was up 78 cents at $53.41.

Both benchmarks have traded within narrow ranges over the last two months, since OPEC and other big exporters agreed to cut output by almost 1.8 million bpd in an attempt to clear a global glut.

"Direct oil market fundamental news seemed more mixed, with Iran claiming output in line with its OPEC agreement when the production level cited was still more than 100,000 bpd above its target and U.S. refiners still shutting more units for planned maintenance work," Tim Evans said.

Iran, which was allowed to raise output under the OPEC deal because sanctions had crimped past supply, pumped an additional 20,000 bpd.

"March Brent crude oil, February heating oil (ULSD) (HOc1), and February RBOB gasoline futures (RBc1) all expire today and so book squaring will also be a feature," Evans added.

The more active Brent crude for April delivery (LCOc2) rose 93 cents to $56.25 a barrel.

After an initial price rise on hopes that markets would rebalance quickly, Brent and U.S. crude futures have been pressured by evidence of higher U.S. oil drilling and forecasts of a rebound in shale production.

U.S. shale output is slowly increasing, helping keep a lid on prices. Brent has been close to $55 a barrel and U.S. crude not far from $52.50 for most of January.

Following months of increased drilling, U.S. oil production (C-OUT-T-EIA) has risen by 6.3 percent since July last year to almost 9 million bpd, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The strength in Brent versus U.S. crude also pushed the spread between the two contracts to the widest in nearly a year.


(Additional reporting by Christopher Johnson in London and Henning Gloystein in Singapore; Editing by David Gregorio)