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    Oil Prices Keep Sliding as OPEC Opens Taps

    Organization pumping at fastest rate in nearly four years.

    LONDON -- Oil prices fell further on Tuesday, bringing losses so far this week to more than $1 per barrel as extra supplies from OPEC eased worries over a summer fuel crunch, reported Reuters.

    U.S. light crude fell 38 cents to $37.21 per barrel, down 12 percent from the 21-year peak on June 2 of $42.45. Analysts said estimates that OPEC was pumping at the fastest rate in nearly four years and that fuel stockpiles were building had encouraged a sell-off, led by speculative investment funds.

    "People seem more certain that the higher supply is coming through from OPEC," said analyst Steve Turner of Commerzbank. "We're still in the trend established in the last two weeks, which is one of lower prices following stock builds."

    Algerian Energy Minister Chakib Khelil said on Tuesday that the fall in prices was proof that OPEC still had power to influence oil markets.

    OPEC earlier this month decided to raise production by 2 million barrels per day (bpd) from July 1 and by another 500,000 bpd from August 1. It meets again on July 21, when it could review the second stage of the deal.

    Khelil said OPEC probably would go ahead with the second stage of the output increase and that high production levels were justified by projections for strong demand growth in the third and fourth quarters.

    "For the time being we have already taken the decision. But in July we will meet again and we will probably go for a decision to increase," Khelil told reporters.

    Data expected on Wednesday from the U.S. Energy Information Administration was predicted to show a rise of 1.55 million barrels in U.S. crude stocks. A Reuters poll of eight analysts also forecast U.S. gasoline stocks would increase by 1.4 million barrels as U.S. refineries ramp up production to meet summer vacation demand.

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