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Crude Oil Futures Fall over Economic Concerns

Crude oil futures were down on Thursday, as a broadly stronger U.S. dollar and concerns over the U.S. economic outlook dragged prices lower. 

On the New York Mercantile Exchange, light, sweet crude futures for delivery in August traded at USD93.88 a barrel during European morning trade, slumping 0.69%.       

It earlier fell as much as 0.85% to hit a daily low of USD93.72 a barrel.

The Federal Reserve announced on Wednesday that it kept its benchmark interest rate unchanged at a historical low of 0.25% in June and gave no indications of further stimulus following the conclusion of its USD600 billion bond-buying program at the end of the month.

In its accompanying rate statement, the Fed cut its 2011 economic growth forecast for the U.S. to a range of 2.7% to 2.9%, down from a previous estimate of 3.1% to 3.3%. Policy makers also cut their forecast range for 2012 growth and lifted estimates for unemployment.

Speaking following the announcement, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said that “some of the headwinds that are concerning us, like problems in the housing sector, may be stronger and more persistent that we thought.”

The dollar index, which tracks the performance of the greenback versus a basket of six other major currencies, was up 0.48% to trade at 75.65.

Dollar-denominated oil futures contracts tend to fall when the dollar gains, as this makes oil more expensive for buyers in other currencies.

Meanwhile, prices were supported after official data showed on Wednesday that U.S. gasoline inventories unexpectedly declined by 0.5 million barrels, confounding expectations for a 0.8 million barrel increase.

Total U.S. crude oil inventories fell by 1.7 million barrels, slightly higher than the expected 1.6 million barrel decline.

The U.S. is the world’s largest crude oil consumer.

Elsewhere, on the ICE Futures Exchange, Brent oil futures for August delivery fell 1.03% to trade at USD112.31 a barrel, up USD18.43 on its U.S. counterpart.

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