Oil prices shed nearly $4 to trade under $114

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LONDON: Crude prices continued their dizzying spiral down on Friday, shedding nearly $4 to trade below $114 a barrel as the US currency strengthened amid concerns about energy demand, dealers said.Brent North Sea crude for September delivery hit an intra-day low of $113.55 a barrel. It recovered slightly to stand at $114.06, down $3.80, at about 14:20 GMT.New York s main contract, light sweet crude for September stood at $116.28 a barrel, down 3.74.Oil futures have shed more than 20 percent in value since hitting record highs above $147 per barrel on July 11.Oil prices are getting more and more pressure from dollar strength and it doesn t seem reversible for now, said Serge Laureau, commodities strategist at Saxo Bank in Copenhagen, quoted by Dow Jones Newswires.The dollar struck a five-month high point against the euro on Friday on fading prospects of an interest rate rise by the European Central Bank, dealers said.A strong dollar makes goods priced in the US unit more expensive for holders of weaker currencies.In a move that sparked hope of an increase in oil supplies in the future, Iraq said it was resuming exploration activities after a break of nearly 20 years owing to crippling UN sanctions.Iraq said it hoped to double its proven reserves of crude, adding that it wanted to ramp up output by 500,000 barrels per day from the current average production of 2.5 million bpd, about equal to the amount being pumped before the US-led invasion of March 2003.Exports of 2.11 million bpd currently form the bulk of the war-torn nation s revenues, and the oil ministry is keen to raise capacity over the next five years to 4.5 million bpd.World oil prices had on Thursday risen towards $120 a barrel on news that a pipeline carrying crude from Central Asia to the West would remain shut for about 15 days after a recent explosion.On Friday, separatist Kurdish rebels claimed responsibility for Tuesday s blast on the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline in eastern Turkey which is expected to leave the pipeline shut for two more weeks.Despite modest price gains on Thursday, the oil market has dived lower this week on mounting concern that slower economic growth in the United States would translate into lower global energy demand.On Monday, prices slumped under $120 a barrel in New York and London for the first time in three months, as a tropical storm looked set to miss energy installations in the Gulf of Mexico.The US government meanwhile reported US consumer spending, which fuels two-thirds of output, had cooled in June and inflationary pressures accelerated.Prices extended their slide on Tuesday as signs of a slowing global economy raised further doubts about demand. – AFP

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