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Oil slumps on economic data, stronger U.S. dollar

FILE PHOTO: The Bryan Mound Strategic Petroleum Reserve is seen in an aerial photograph over Freeport, Texas

By Laila Kearney

NEW YORK (Reuters) -Oil prices settled lower on Thursday as U.S. industrial-linked factory orders dipped, while the dollar strengthened, making crude more expensive for non-American buyers.

Brent crude futures settled at $82.17 a barrel, shedding 67 cents, or 0.8%. West Texas Intermediate crude (WTI) settled at $75.88 a barrel, down 53 cents, or 0.7%.

While new orders for U.S. manufactured goods rose broadly in December, orders for industrial equipment and other machinery fell, according to the latest Commerce Department data.

"It was highlighting more slowing in the economy, particularly on the industrial side, which is a negative for petroleum," said John Kilduff, a partner at Again Capital.

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A rebound in the dollar index, which hit a nine-month low earlier in the session on softer U.S. Federal Reserve rate hike bets, also weighed on oil prices, according to Jim Ritterbusch of Ritterbusch and Associates. A stronger greenback makes dollar-priced oil more expensive for holders of other currencies.

The Fed raised its target interest rate by a quarter of a percentage point on Wednesday, but continued to promise "ongoing increases" in borrowing costs as part of its battle against inflation.

"Inflation has eased somewhat but remains elevated," the U.S. central bank said in a statement that marked an explicit acknowledgement of the progress made in lowering the pace of price increases from the 40-year highs hit last year.

While inflation appears to have slowed in major economies, the response of central banks and the speed of reopening from COVID-19 lockdowns is uncertain.

"Investors have become less confident in the strength of the outlook; something we could see change repeatedly in this first quarter due to the lack of visibility on interest rates and China's COVID transition," said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at OANDA.

Helping to keep oil from moving lower was a European Union ban on Russian refined products set to take effect on Feb. 5, potentially dealing a blow to global supply.

EU countries will seek a deal on Friday on a European Commission proposal to set price caps on Russian oil products after postponing a decision on Wednesday because of divisions among member states, diplomats said.

The European Commission proposed last week that from Feb. 5 the EU apply a price cap of $100 a barrel on premium Russian oil products such as diesel and a $45 per barrel cap on discounted products such as fuel oil.

Meanwhile, an OPEC+ panel endorsed the producer group's current output policy at a meeting on Wednesday, leaving production cuts agreed last year unchanged amid hopes of higher Chinese demand and uncertain prospects for Russian supply.

(Additional reporting by Noah Browning in London;Editing by Marguerita Choy, Will Dunham, Kirsten Donovan and David Gregorio)