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Oil rally extends amid focus on supply-demand fundamentals

New York — A late rally Thursday pushed oil futures to higher settles for a second consecutive session as a focus on supply and demand overshadowed continued equity market weakness.

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ICE March Brent settled up $1.04 at $55.95/b, and NYMEX February WTI was up 55 cents at $47.09/b at market close.

Concerns that slowing economic growth, specifically in China, could blunt future oil demand have stalked crude markets in recent months. These fears mounted early Thursday amid a broad equity market selloff sparked by Apple warning it would miss its fourth-quarter 2018 revenue targets a result of a dramatic slowdown in Chinese sales.

But oil prices recovered from a mid-morning dip in afternoon trading as the market's focus shifted from sharply lower equity markets to supply and demand fundamentals.

"Even with slowing demand growth concerns in Europe and China, there is still strong demand there - just the growth is slowing," Tradition Energy analyst Gene McGillian said. "With the Dow down, we might get some weakness back in the market, but until we break below recent lows I'd say the market is trying to stabilize."

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Both crude and refined products futures stepped higher in the final minutes of trading even as declines major stock indexes accelerated. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was trading roughly 2.15% under its open around market settle.

NYMEX February ULSD settled up 4.14 cents at $1.7420/gal - just below its intraday high of $1.7466/gal - and NYMEX February RBOB was up 2.39 cents at $1.3495/gal at market close.

Expectations of a bullish US Energy Information Administration inventory report on Friday added further support for energy markets, analysts said.

US crude stocks were expected to have declined 1.3 million barrels to around 440.11 million barrels in the week that ended December 28, according to analysts surveyed by S&P Global Platts Wednesday.

-- Chris van Moessner,

-- Edited by Keiron Greenhalgh,