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Oil falls on easing geopolitical tensions, China demand worries

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LONDON — Oil extended declines on Thursday as concerns over geopolitical tensions eased and as rising numbers of COVID-19 cases in China added to demand worries in the world’s largest crude importer.

Poland and NATO said on Wednesday 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 Russian and Ukraine spilling across the border.

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“It looks like we aren’t seeing an immediate escalation from the Russians and that has tentatively removed some of the short-term supply risks,” said Edward Moya, senior market analyst at OANDA.

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Brent crude was down $1.30, or 1.4%, to $91.56 a barrel at 1137 GMT. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude slid $1.42, or 1.7%, to $84.17.

Concern about weak demand in China also weighed on the market.

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

“Struggling Chinese consumption is embodied in sinking domestic need for both Russian and Saudi crude oil,” said Tamas Varga of oil broker PVM.

While China’s COVID caseload is small compared with the rest of the world, it maintains stringent policies to quash out cases before they further spread, dampening fuel demand.

Oil gained some support from official figures that U.S. crude stocks fell by more than 5 million barrels in the most recent week, more than analysts had forecast.

Supply is also tightening in November as OPEC and its allies, known as OPEC+, implement their latest output cut aimed at supporting the market. (Additional reporting by Emily Chow and Jeslyn Lerh; Editing by Mark Potter and Tomasz Janowski)

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