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Oil drops amid rising stocks, dragging on energy shares

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By Lewis Krauskopf NEW YORK (Reuters) – Oil prices tumbled on Tuesday, weighing down energy shares in the wake of a report of rising crude stocks, while the U.S. dollar strengthened ahead of an expected Federal Reserve decision to raise interest rates. Oil prices slid to three-month lows after OPEC reported a rise in global crude stocks and a surprise jump in production from its biggest member, Saudi Arabia, despite output curbs by the group. U.S. crude prices fell 1.8 percent to $47.53 a barrel, touching their lowest point since Nov 30. Benchmark Brent crude fell 1.4 percent to $50.63 a barrel. The decline in oil prices “affects the energy stocks, which affects the overall U.S. market,” said Peter Tuz, president of Chase Investment Counsel in Charlottesville, Virginia. “But it also calls into concern growth worldwide somewhat, and that affects markets obviously, and I think you’re seeing a bit of that today.” MSCI’s all-country world stock index fell 0.4 percent. On Wall Street, equity indexes opened lower, with the energy sector the worst performing group, falling 1.5 percent. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 61.83 points, or 0.3 percent, to 20,819.65, the S&P 500 lost 11.95 points, or 0.50 percent, to 2,361.52 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 34.86 points, or 0.59 percent, to 5,840.93. The U.S. Federal Reserve said it would hold a policy meeting as planned on Tuesday and Wednesday, even as a snowstorm hit Washington. With the central bank widely expected to raise rates, the focus is on the pace of future hikes. “The big question is ‘does the Fed become even more hawkish and point towards the possibility of more than three rate hikes?’,” said Constantin Bolz, head of currency strategy at UBS Wealth Management in Zurich. Investors also are assessing the potential outcome and impact of a gathering of G20 finance chiefs, U.S. President Donald Trump’s first budget and a tense election in the Netherlands. The pan-European STOXX 600 share index shed 0.4 percent, as banking and energy shares fell. The dollar rose 0.2 percent against a basket of key currencies, bolstered by the Fed’s expected interest rate increase and by political risks in Europe amid Dutch and French elections that have pressured European currencies. The euro fell 0.2 percent on caution ahead of the Dutch vote. U.S. Treasury yields edged lower, with long-dated and benchmark yields retreating from three-month highs touched overnight as traders neutralized bets ahead of the Fed’s decision. Prices on benchmark 10-year Treasuries rose 4/32 to yield 2.593 percent, from 2.607 percent late on Monday. (Additional reporting by Nigel Stephenson in London; Editing by Catherine Evans)

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