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The international oil benchmark has closed below $50 a barrel for the first time since Opec and other big producers agreed output late last year, reflecting doubts that the pact is removing a global surplus as fast as expected.

ICE July Brent lost 4.8 per cent, or $2.41, to settle at $48.38 a barrel in London on Thursday. In New York, West Texas Intermediate for June delivery tumbled 4.8 per cent to a $45.52-a-barrel settlement.

The prices were the lowest since November 29, the day before Opec ended two years of unrestrained production with its deal to curb volumes. But data pointing to persistently high inventories has unnerved traders.

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