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Picture: UNSPLASH/MARIA LUPAN
Picture: UNSPLASH/MARIA LUPAN

Tokyo/Singapore — Oil prices climbed on Thursday, supported by signals from the US Federal Reserve on a possible start to rate cuts and as China unveiled new support measures for its embattled property market.

Brent crude futures rose 43c, or 0.5%, to $80.98 a barrel and US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures gained 44c, or 0.6%, to $76.29 at 4.05am GMT, after falling by more than $2 a barrel in the previous session.

“The immediate reason for an oil rebound is likely [to be] the market’s expectations for rate cuts this year after Fed [chair Jerome] Powell indicated ‘a peak of the rate hiking cycle’ in his speech,” CMC Markets analyst Tina Teng said.

Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell said on Wednesday that interest rates had peaked and would move lower in coming months, with inflation continuing to fall and an expectation of sustained job and economic growth.

Reinforcing views that the central bank could start cutting interest rates by June, data showed US labour costs rose less than expected in the fourth quarter and the annual increases were the smallest in two years.

Lower rates and economic growth are supportive of oil demand.

China, the world’s second-biggest economy, unveiled new property support measures amid concerns about the fallout from the liquidation of developer Evergrande and as the country ended 2023 with the worst declines in new home prices in nearly nine years.

Analysts at JPMorgan said they expected China to remain the single largest contributor to global oil demand growth in 2024, forecasting oil demand there would grow by 530,000 barrels a day (bbl/day) in 2024, following a 1.2-million barrels a day surge last year.

“Geopolitics aside, our view remains that 2024 will be fundamentally a healthy year for the oil market and we recommended using December’s sell-off as a buying opportunity,” JPMorgan said in a client note.

In the Middle East, worry about attacks by Yemen-based Houthi forces on shipping in the Red Sea is now driving up costs and disrupting global oil trading.

“The energy market remains on edge as it waits for a US response to the drone attack on American troops in Jordan,” ANZ Research said in a note, after the Houthi group said it would keep up attacks on US and British warships in the Red Sea in what it called acts of self-defence.

Reuters

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