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Oil prices dip after rally but supply worries persist
[SINGAPORE] Oil prices held most of the previous day's strong gains on Thursday, but while a dive in US gasoline stockpiles fuelled hopes for a pick-up in demand, traders remain on edge over the long-running supply glut.
Both main contracts soared on Wednesday, with US benchmark West Texas Intermediate hitting a more than three-month high and Brent breaking US$41 after the US energy department report.
The figures showed gasoline inventories plunged three times faster than expected while the country's commercial crude stockpiles rose almost two-thirds less than forecast. WTI put on 4.9 per cent and Brent 3.6 per cent soon after the data.
On Thursday, WTI eased five cents to US$38.24 and Brent dipped 14 cents to US$40.93.
Analysts said it remains to be seen whether the price rise would be sustained, especially after China this week reported a plunge in exports in February, stirring renewed fears of a "hard landing" for the world's second biggest economy.
"I'm still not leaning towards prices moving up sustainably because the fundamentals have not changed," said Phillip Futures analyst Daniel Ang.
He pointed to US crude production, which he said rose marginally last week after weeks of decline, describing it as "rather bearish" for prices.
EY oil and gas analyst Sanjeev Gupta said the market it looking forward to a March 20 meeting of major crude producers to discuss an output freeze proposed by key players Russia and Saudi Arabia aimed at stabilising prices.
The meeting "will provide vital clues about price development in the near term", Gupta said, but other analysts have cautioned against too much expectations that an agreement will be reached.