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Oil futures settle lower on US dollar strength

Crude oil futures little changed before release of FOMC meeting notes

Crude futures were little changed in US trading Wednesday morning as the dollar firmed ahead of the release of the latest meeting notes from the Federal Open Market Committee.

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At 1549 GMT, NYMEX April crude was 24 cents lower at $61.55/b. ICE April Brent was 9 cents lower at $65.16/b

NYMEX March ULSD was 23 points higher at $1.9300/gal. NYMEX March RBOB was down 19 points at $1.7484/gal.

The Federal Reserve, at 1900 GMT, will release the notes from January's meeting of the FOMC, the central bank's policysetting committee.

"The minutes are likely to shine light on how Fed officials expect the tax bill to affect the economy," Confluence Investment Management said.

"There have been concerns that the tax bill could be inflationary; as a result, we expect the minutes to reflect the Fed's willingness to speed up the pace of rate hikes as a counterweight to potential inflation," it said.

The US Dollar Index set a three-year low last week at 88.253 Friday, but since then has found support. The index was 0.177 point higher at 89.893 Wednesday.

"Oil prices are likely to slide for as long as the US dollar appreciates, especially since fundamental data also point more toward falling prices," Commerzbank analysts said in a note.

At 1549 GMT, The Dow Jones Industrial Average was 129 points higher at 25,093. The S&P 500 Index was 17 points higher at 2,733.

Attention will turn to weekly US inventory data starting later Wednesday with the American Petroleum Institute's report and then the US Energy Information Administration's report Thursday.

Analysts that S&P Global Platts surveyed Tuesday expect crude stocks rose 2.5 million barrels, while gasoline and distillate stocks were expected to fall 800,000 barrels and 1.6 million barrels, respectively.

--Geoffrey Craig,
--Edited by Valarie Jackson,