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Oil prices fall as Chinese demand data disappoints

LONDON, Oct 24 (Reuters) – Oil prices fell on Monday after Chinese data showed demand from the world’s biggest crude importer remained weak in September as strict Covid-19 policies and fuel exports slowed consumption.

Brent crude futures for December settlement were down $1[ads1].17, or 1.3%, at $92.33 a barrel by 1217 GMT, after rising 2% last week. US West Texas Intermediate crude for December delivery was at $83.65 a barrel, down $1.40, or 1.7%.

Although China’s September crude imports of 9.79 million bpd were higher than in August, they were 2% lower than a year earlier, customs data showed on Monday, as independent refiners curbed throughput amid thin margins and weak demand.

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“The recent recovery in oil imports faltered in September,” ANZ analysts said in a note, adding that independent refiners failed to take advantage of increased quotas as ongoing COVID-related shutdowns weighed on demand.

Uncertainty over China’s zero-Covid policy and property crisis are undermining the effectiveness of growth-promoting measures, ING analysts said in a note, even as third-quarter gross domestic product growth beat expectations.

Brent rose last week despite US President Joe Biden announcing the sale of the remaining 15 million barrels of oil from the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve, part of a record release of 180 million barrels that began in May.

Biden added that his goal would be to replenish stocks when U.S. crude is around $70 a barrel.

But bank Goldman Sachs said the share issue was unlikely to have a major impact on prices.

“Such a release is likely to have only a modest impact (<5$/barrel) on oil prices," the bank said in a note.

U.S. energy companies added oil and natural gas rigs last week for a second straight week as relatively high oil prices encourage firms to drill more, energy services firm Baker Hughes Co said in a report.

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Additional reporting by Florence Tan; Editing by Mike Harrison, Louise Heavens and Jan Harvey

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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