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Oil set for third weekly decline as Middle East conflict concerns ebb

Oil set for third weekly decline as Middle East conflict concerns ebb © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The sun is seen behind a crude oil pump jack in the Permian Basin in Loving County, Texas, U.S., November 22, 2019. Picture taken November 22, 2019. REUTERS/Angus Mordant/File Photo

By Sudarshan Varadhan

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Oil prices were little changed on Friday after rising in the previous session but are set to fall for a third week as concerns of supply disruptions from the Israel-Hamas conflict have ebbed allowing demand worries to reassert themselves.

futures for January were flat at $80.01 a barrel at 0157 GMT, while the U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures for December were at $75.67, down 7 cents.

Brent futures are down 5.7% this week while WTI has declined 5.9% since last week. The three weeks of declines are the longest weekly losing streak for both contracts since a four-week drop from mid-April to early May.

“The threat of disruptions to supplies from the Middle East continues to fall,” ANZ Research said in a note on Friday.

“The conflict remains well contained within Gaza, despite concerns it would escalate as neighbouring Arab nations show their displeasure.”

The White House said on Thursday that Israel had agreed to pause military operations in parts of north Gaza for four hours a day, though there was no sign of a complete let-up.

The sense supply disruptions from the Israel-Hamas conflict are easing is occurring as concerns around demand, especially from China, the world’s largest oil importer, are rising.

Weak Chinese economic data this week increased worries of faltering demand. Additionally, refiners in China, the largest buyer of from the world’s largest exporter Saudi Arabia, asked for less supply from Saudi Arabia for December.

However, analysts at Citi said in a note on Thursday it expected the downward pressure to ease and prices to recover after falling to their lowest since July earlier this week.

“We expect prices to consolidate, and we maintain our near-term price forecasts with support expected to come from refinery maintenance easing and a shift in the risk-reward for investors following the recent sell-off,” Citi said.

“Indeed upside risks abound from current levels, the potential for (the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies) to look to act to defend prices, while supply risks in the Middle East remain elevated.

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