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U.S. crude futures continue extended slide to remain near 2015 lows



WTI crude fell under $45 a barrel on Thursday, while brent remained under $50 — futures extended their precipitous fall on Thursday remaining near six-month lows, as worries persisted about the glut of oversupply on global markets after the release of fresh data earlier this week.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange, WTI crude for September delivery traded between $44.20 and $45.27 a barrel, before settling at 44.70, down 0.45 or 1.01% on the session. Texas Long Sweet futures remain near yearly lows for 2015, after closing lower for the sixth time in seven sessions. During that span, U.S. crude futures are down nearly 10%. More broadly, WTI crude has fallen by more than 21% over the last month of trading.

On the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), brent crude for September delivery inched up to close the session higher, after reversing territory in the final minutes of Thursday's session. Nevertheless, brent futures gained only 0.01 or 0.02% to close at $49.60 a barrel — remaining under $50 a barrel for the fourth straight day. futures wavered between $48.89 and $49.83 on a choppy day of trading.

Meanwhile, the spread between the international and U.S. benchmarks of crude stood at $4.90, below Wednesday's level of $4.46 at the close.

Traders await the release of Friday's weekly rig count from oil services firm Baker Hughes (NYSE:) for further indications on the increasing supply/demand gulf in energy markets worldwide. Last week, Baker Hughes said U.S. oil rigs increased by five to 664, its highest level since May. It came one week after an unexpected build by 21 rigs to 659. Earlier in July, a draw that lasted for more than 25 weeks came to a halt following two straight weeks of builds. Last fall, the rig count peaked above 1,500.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said U.S. crude inventories decreased by 4.4 million barrels for the week ending on July 31, extending a mild draw from a week earlier. At 455.3 million barrels, U.S. crude oil inventories remain near levels not seen for this time of year in at least the last 80 years.

Crude output for the week, meanwhile, rose by 52,000 barrels to 9.465 million barrels per day, following three previous weeks of weekly draws. U.S. crude production remains near its highest level in more than 40 years.

At the same time, Aramco, Saudi Arabia's state-owned energy company, announced that it is raising the official selling price for its Arab Light crude to Asia at a premium of 0.40 a barrel above the average price. The move comes as Asian refiners face heavy pressure to increase profit margins, amid increased competition in the crude markets throughout the continent.

Last month, the kingdom ramped up crude output in July by 70,000 barrels to 10.57 million bpd. If Saudi Arabia continues to increase output at its current level, analysts from Citigroup (NYSE:) believe the Gulf state could produce an average of 11 million bpd for the second half of 2015.

The , which measures the strength of the greenback against a basket of six other major currencies, fell 0.04% to 97.94 in U.S. afternoon trading. One session earlier, the index surged to an intraday high of 98.33 – its highest level since April 23.

Dollar-denominated commodities such as crude become more expensive for foreign purchasers when the dollar appreciates.

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