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Oil prices head for weekly drop on global economic slowdown worries

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Oil prices slipped on Friday after two days of gains, as market participants weighed worries about a global economic slowdown, which would dampen fuel demand, against expectations of tighter supplies toward year-end.

Brent crude futures fell 68 cents, or 0.7 per cent, to $95.91 a barrel by 0658 GMT after settling 3.1 per cent higher on Thursday. US West Texas Intermediate crude was at $89.81 a barrel, down 69 cents, or 0.8 per cent, following a 2.7 per cent increase in the previous session.

Both benchmark contracts were headed for weekly losses of more than 2 per cent.

While bullish US weekly data bolstered optimism for improved fuel demand for the near-term, lingering recession fears and a possible increase in output by OPEC+ will likely limit oil price’s upside, said Satoru Yoshida, a commodity analyst with Rakuten Securities.

US crude inventories fell sharply as the nation exported a record 5 million barrels of oil a day in the most recent week, with oil companies finding heavy demand from European nations looking to replace crude from warring Russia.

Keeping crude supplies snug, US oil refineries plan to keep running near full throttle this quarter, according to executives and estimates, as refiners set aside worries about recession and sliding retail prices to deliver more fuel.

The rise in US fuel production could partly offset lower oil products exports from China this year as Beijing prioritises the local market to curb domestic fuel inflation.

On supplies, Haitham Al Ghais, new secretary general of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, told Reuters that policymakers, lawmakers and insufficient oil and gas sector investments are to blame for high energy prices, not his group.

The group together with allies such as Russia, known as OPEC+, are due to meet on Sept. 5 to adjust production. OPEC is keen to ensure Russia remains part of the OPEC+ oil production deal after 2022, Al Ghais said.

In a sign of improving supplies, the price gap between prompt and second-month Brent futures narrowed about $5 a barrel from the end of July.

Record US crude exports, the resumption of Libya’s production and sustained exports from Russia and Iran have eased global supply tightness ahead of peak refinery maintenance.

Still, supplies could tighten again when European buyers start seeking alternative supplies to replace Russian oil ahead of European Union sanctions which take effect from Dec. 5.

“We calculate the EU will need to replace 1.2 million barrels per day of seaborne Russian crude imports with crude from other regions,” consultancy FGE said in a note.

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