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Oil prices slide as concerns about global economy, oversupply weigh

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Oil prices fell on Thursday, retreating from an 8 per cent rally in the previous session as the oil market focused on signs of faltering global economic growth and record production of crude.

[NEW YORK] Oil prices fell on Thursday, retreating from an 8 per cent rally in the previous session as the oil market focused on signs of faltering global economic growth and record production of crude.

Brent crude futures dropped 4.24 per cent, or US$2.31, to settle at US$52.16 a barrel. US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures fell US$1.61 to settle at US$44.61 a barrel, down 3.48 per cent.

"The market is giving back some of its gains from yesterday that were brought along with the euphoria in the stock market," said Andrew Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates in Houston.

Prices surged on Wednesday, tracking a spike on Wall Street after President Donald Trump's administration attempted to shore up investor confidence.

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US stocks retreated for most of the session on Thursday, dragging oil prices, before roaring back to end in positive territory.

Brent and WTI have lost more than a third of their value since the beginning of October and are heading for declines of more than 20 per cent in 2018.

Concerns about slowing global economic growth have dampened investor demand for riskier asset classes and pressured crude futures.

Market participants are also worried about a glut of crude.

US crude stocks rose by 6.9 million barrels in the week ended Dec. 21 to 448.2 million, data from industry group the American Petroleum Institute showed on Thursday. Analysts had expected a decrease of 2.9 million barrels.

Official US government data will be released on Friday.

Three months ago it looked as if the global oil market would be undersupplied through the northern hemisphere winter as US sanctions removed large volumes of Iranian crude. But other oil exporters have compensated for any shortfall, depressing prices.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, along with Russia and other producers, agreed this month to reduce output by 1.2 million barrels per day (bpd), equivalent to more than 1 per cent of global consumption.

But the cuts will not take effect until January and oil production has been at or near record highs in Russia, Saudi Arabia and the United States, now the world's top crude producer pumping 11.6 million bpd.

Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said the country will cut its output by between 3 million and 5 million tonnes in the first half of 2019. It then will be able to restore it to 556 million tonnes (11.12 million barrels per day) for the whole 2019, on par with 2018, he added.

Although US sanctions have put a cap on Iran's oil sales, Tehran has said its private exporters have "no problems" selling its oil. 

REUTERS