NYMEX-U.S. crude futures fall on rumoured sell-off, Saudi output
PERTH, Feb 21 (Reuters) - U.S. crude futures fell in early Asian trading on Thursday, after dropping nearly $2 per barrel the previous day as market rumours circulated that a hedge fund was forced to liquidate substantial commodity positions. Anticipation that Saudi Arabia will raise oil production in the second quarter of the year also added pressure to prices.
* U.S. crude for April delivery fell 47 cents to $94.75 by 0017 GMT.
* The U.S. crude contract for March delivery, which expired on Wednesday, settled at $94.46 a barrel in New York, down $2.20.
* Brent crude for April delivery fell $1.92 to settle at $115.60 a barrel on Wednesday.
* Oil prices entered into a steep decline just before 11 a.m. EST (1700 GMT) Wednesday. Traders cited rumours that a hedge fund was in trouble and said the price fall looked like multiple sell-stop orders being triggered in quick succession.
* Saudi Arabia expects to raise its oil output in the second quarter to satisfy higher demand from China and feed economic recovery elsewhere, oil industry sources said.
* Major powers are ready to make "a substantial and serious offer" to Iran during talks next week in return for concessions on its nuclear programme.
* A U.N. nuclear watchdog report due this week is expected to show that growth of Iran's stockpile of higher-grade enriched uranium has slowed as it is using some of the material to make reactor fuel.
* U.S. commercial crude oil stockpiles likely increased last week as refineries operated at a lower rate, an initial Reuters poll of 11 analysts showed on Wednesday, while refined product inventories were expected to have declined.
* Global equity markets fell on Wednesday after some Federal Reserve policy-makers said last month the central bank may have to stop or slow its bond-buying program before hiring picks up.
* The U.S. dollar held firm on Thursday, having enjoyed its biggest one-day gain in seven months against a currency basket as commodities and U.S. equities slid on rumours of a hedge fund in trouble.
0758 France Markit Manufacturing Flash PMI0828 Germany Markit Manufacturing Flash PMI
0858 Euro zone Markit Manufacturing Flash PMI
1330 U.S. CPI 1330 U.S. Weekly jobless claims 1358 U.S. Markit Manufacturing Flash PMI 1500 U.S. Philly Fed business index 1500 U.S. Existing home sales 1500 U.S. Leading indicators 1600 U.S. EIA petroleum status report
(Reporting by Rebekah Kebede; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)