Oil stable after smaller ECB hike, demand woes linger

Oil prices were steady on Thursday after an European Central Bank (ECB) decision to slow interest rate hikes but were unable to claw back much of this week’s more than 8% decline as demand concerns in major consuming countries continued to weigh.

Brent futures were up 28 cents, or 0.39%, to $72.61 a barrel at 1228 GMT. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude rose 6 cents, or 0.09%, to $68.66.

The European Central Bank (ECB) eased the pace of its interest rate hikes on Thursday and kept its options open on future moves as it continues its fight against stubbornly high inflation in the euro zone.

The 25-basis-point increase to the ECB’s three policy rates was the smallest since it started lifting them last summer.

“Today’s decision signals that the ECB has entered the final stage of its current tightening cycle,” ING said in a note.

Prices have plunged this week on concerns about the U.S. economy and signs of weak manufacturing growth in the world’s largest oil importer China, sliding further after the U.S. Federal Reserve raised interest rates on Wednesday. That capped near-term economic growth prospects.

However the market has seen some support from the Fed’s signal that it may pause further interest rate increases to give officials time to assess the fallout from recent bank failures and to gain clarity on the dispute over raising the U.S. debt ceiling.

“With the Fed possibly pausing, the debt ceiling hopefully resolved this month, the OPEC+ cut felt in a few weeks’ time and global demand picking up in the second half of the year, we are growing in conviction that the question is not how low oil prices will fall, but how long,” oil broker PVM’s Tamas Varga said.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)and allies including Russia, a group known as OPEC+, started voluntary output cuts at the beginning of this month.

Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said on Thursday the country was abiding by its voluntary pledge to cut oil output by 500,000 barrels per day (bpd) from February until the end of the year.

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