Oil falls on worries of U.S. rate hikes, China demand outlook


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HOUSTON — Oil fell more than 3% on Thursday as rising numbers of COVID-19 cases in China and the suggestion of higher interest rates than currently expected in the United States weighed on demand.

Brent crude fell $2.64 to $90.22 a barrel, down 2.8%, at 1:28 p.m. EST (1828 GMT). U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude slid $3.63, or 4.2%, to $81.96 per barrel.

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“It’s kind of a triple whammy. We’ve got COVID-19 cases rising in China, interest rates are continuing to rise here in the U.S. and now we’ve got technical weakness in the market,” said Dennis Kissler, senior vice president of trading at BOK Financial.

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St. Louis Federal Reserve President James Bullard said a basic monetary policy rule would require interest rates to rise to at least around 5%, while stricter assumptions would recommend rates above 7%.

The dollar also rose as investors digested U.S. economic data. A stronger dollar makes dollar-denominated oil more expensive for holders of other currencies.

China reported rising daily COVID-19 infections and Chinese refiners have asked to reduce Saudi crude volume in December, Reuters has reported, while also slowing Russian crude purchases.

While China’s COVID case load is small compared with the rest of the world, the world’s largest crude importer maintains stringent policies to quash outbreaks before they spread, dampening fuel demand.

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On technical indicators, U.S. front-month futures fell below the 50-day simple moving average, triggering liquidation by funds, Kissler said, adding he expects the pressure to likely continue into first part of next week.

Poland and NATO on Wednesday said a missile that crashed inside NATO member Poland was probably a stray fired by Ukraine’s air defenses and not a Russian strike, easing fears of the war between Russia and Ukraine spilling across the border.

“Thankfully, those fears have abated and the situation de-escalated, which has seen oil gains unwound,” said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at OANDA. “China remains a downside risk for oil in the near term.”

Oil gained some support from official figures showing that U.S. crude stocks fell by a bigger than expected 5 million barrels in the most recent week.

Supply is also tightening in November as OPEC and its allies, known collectively as OPEC+, implement their latest output controls to support the market. (Reporting Arathy Somasekhar in Houston and Alex Lawler in London Additional reporting by Emily Chow and Jeslyn Lerh Editing by Kirsten Donovan and Matthew Lewis)


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