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Oil market prices mixed in Asian trade

SINGAPORE, Dec 23 – Oil prices were mixed in Asian trade on Wednesday, as markets reacted to a strengthening US dollar, analysts said.

New York\’s main futures contract, light sweet crude for delivery in February, rose five cents to 74.45 dollars a barrel in the afternoon.

Brent North Sea crude for February delivery shed two cents to 73.44 dollars.

"Oil is just moving with the dollar," said Ben Westmore, minerals and energy economist with the National Australia Bank in Melbourne.

The dollar was at 91.710 yen in afternoon trade, up from 91.622 in early trading.

A stronger greenback would make dollar-priced crude less attractive to investors using weaker currencies.

The oil market was not heavily affected by a decision from the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) Tuesday to keep its official crude output levels unchanged.

"Markets on the whole were expecting that, so it didn\’t have a big impact," Westmore said.

Investors were upbeat over expectations that weekly US inventory data Wednesday would show increasing demand in the world\’s biggest energy consuming nation.

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"Early indications is that it\’s going to be bullish," independent oil analyst Ellis Eckland said, following forecasts that US stockpile figures to be released later Wednesday would show a fall.

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