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June 30, 2017

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Strong dollar causes drop in Asian oil prices

SINGAPORE--Oil prices fell in Asian trade Monday on a stronger dollar as investors digested U.S. Federal Reserve Chief Janet Yellen's defense of the bank's monetary policy, analysts said.

U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate for October eased 15 cents to US$93.50 while Brent crude for October tumbled 19 cents to US$102.10.

The U.S. dollar surged against the yen in Asian trading Monday to 104.18 yen — its highest level since January — from 103.87 in New York Friday.

A stronger greenback makes dollar-priced oil more expensive for buyers using weaker currencies, denting demand and pushing prices lower.

The dollar rose after Yellen on Friday discussed slack seen in the U.S. jobs market and an improvement in recent economic indicators.

While some U.S. economic data has improved, there still remains "considerable uncertainty about the level of employment," she told the Jackson Hole Conference.

Singapore's United Overseas Bank said Yellen's comments, while seen as neutral, also signaled that "monetary policy is not on a preset path and the Fed's decision path will be data-dependent."

An eventual hike in official short-term interest rates will likely take place in the middle of next year, the bank said.

Analysts said the oil market is also under pressure on easing concerns about conflicts in crude producers Libya and Iraq, as well as Ukraine, a key conduit for Russian gas exports to Europe.

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