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Oil prices dip, but eye positive week on Chinese demand bets



© Reuters.

By Ambar Warrick — Oil prices fell slightly on Friday as traders weighed the prospect of more economic headwinds from rising interest rates, although renewed optimism over a rebound in Chinese demand put prices on course for strong weekly gains.

Crude markets logged wild swings in recent sessions amid a series of mixed cues. While better-than-expected Chinese business activity data offered upward momentum, this was offset by hawkish signals from major central banks and signs of stubborn inflation across the globe.

futures fell less than 0.1% to $84.45 a barrel, while futures fell 0.4% to $77.89 a barrel by 21:22 ET (02:22 GMT). Both contracts were set to add between 1.5% and 2% this week, their second consecutive week of gains.

Optimism over China was the biggest boost to prices this week, as the country’s (PMI) grew at its fastest pace in over a decade in February after Beijing relaxed most anti-COVID measures earlier this year.

The results of a private survey reiterated this notion of a recovery on Friday, with the rising more than expected in February.

The readings reinforced bets that an economic recovery in China will drive crude demand to record highs in 2023. But it also helped oil prices advance past several potential headwinds to the market.

Data this week showed U.S. declined for a fourth consecutive month in February, while unexpectedly rose, feeding into fears of high inflation. Weaker-than-expected weekly also pointed to resilience in the labor market, which the Fed is looking to stem.

Overnight comments from Federal Reserve officials offered some clarity over the path of interest rates. But they reiterated that the Fed’s stance will be largely determined by economic data, which has so far shown that inflation remained sticky in January.

Other data also showed that U.S. markets remained flush with supply, as the country’s grew for a tenth consecutive week.

read higher than expected for February, inviting a hawkish rhetoric from the European Central Bank as it moves against rising prices.

Oil prices are still trading about 2% lower for the year, with pressure coming chiefly from a stronger and concerns that rising interest rates will dent economic growth this year, in turn hurting crude demand.

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