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Oil rebounds from six-month-low, demand concerns still cloud

'Oil markets may have been oversold,” which could mean the recovery is a “short-term rebound,' says markets analyst
A pump jack is seen at sunset near Midland, Texas, U.S., on May 3, 2017. Reuters
A pump jack is seen at sunset near Midland, Texas, U.S., on May 3, 2017. Reuters

Oil prices reclaimed some ground on Thursday after tumbling to a six-month low in the previous session, but investors remained concerned about sluggish demand and economic slowdowns in the U.S. and China.

Brent crude futures rose 38 cents, or 0.5%, to $74.68 a barrel by 0409 GMT. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures rose 42 cents, or 0.6%, to $69.80 a barrel.

“Oil markets may have been oversold,” which could mean the recovery is a “short-term rebound,” said Tina Teng, a markets analyst with CMC Markets, in a note.

In the previous session, the market was “spooked” by data showing U.S. output remains near record highs even though inventories fell, analysts at ANZ said in a note.

Some of the bearishness was also a result of higher product fuel inventories, the ANZ analysts said.

Gasoline stocks (USOILG=ECI) rose by 5.4 million barrels in the week to 223.6 million barrels, the EIA said on Wednesday, far exceeding expectations for a 1 million-barrel build.

For the first time in a year, the market structure for Brent contracts switched to trade in contango, with contracts for near-term delivery cheaper than six months later . WTI contracts have also switched to trade in contango over six months out.

A market moving back into contango suggests there is less worry about the current supply situation and encourages traders to put barrels in storage.

Oil prices have fallen by about 10% since the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies, together called OPEC+, announced a combined 2.2 million barrels per day voluntary output cuts.

“Oil markets seem to completely sideline producer’s cartel maneuvers aimed at keeping oil prices elevated,” said Priyanka Sachdeva, analyst from Phillip Nova, in a note.

A Reuters survey found that OPEC oil output fell in November in the first monthly drop since July, as a result of lower shipments by Nigeria and Iraq as well as ongoing market-supporting cuts by Saudi Arabia and other members of the wider OPEC+ alliance.

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met to discuss further oil price cooperation on Wednesday as members of OPEC+, which may strengthen the market’s confidence in the impact of output cuts.

Kuwait and Algeria also reaffirmed their support and commitment to the voluntary cuts.

“The sign of easing inflation is (also) feeding into fears of a global economic slowdown and in turn dented demand for fuel globally,” Sachdeva said.

Chinese customs data showed that crude imports in November fell 9% from a year earlier, as high inventory levels, weak economic indicators and slowing orders from independent refiners weakened demand.

While total imports dropped on a monthly basis, China’s exports grew for the first time in six months in November, suggesting the manufacturing sector may be beginning to benefit from an uptick in global trade flows.

Ratings agency Moody’s put Hong Kong, Macau and swathes of China’s state-owned firms and banks on downgrade warnings on Wednesday, just one day after it slapped a downgrade warning on China’s sovereign credit rating.

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