Crude oil prices fell sharply on Friday after a decline in Chinese oil demand and concerns over a slow economic rebound in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic.
International benchmark Brent crude was trading at $43.72 per barrel at 0603 GMT for a 0.79% decrease after closing Thursday at $44.07 a barrel.
American benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) was at $41 a barrel at the same time for a 0.89% decrease after ending the previous session at $41.37 per barrel.
Oil prices posted the sharpest decline on Friday since June. The fall in China's oil demand and the economic data showing a slower-then-anticipated recovery from the COVID-19 crisis exerted downward pressure on oil prices.
The growing uncertainty over a Washington stalemate in talks on a recovery package for the pandemic's fallout and increasing tension between the US and China are also suppressing prices.
Although the number of US jobless claims dropped by more than expected, the downturn in the country's service sector activities and the rise in the trade deficit to the highest level in 12 years negatively affected oil prices.
A rebound in the US dollar and the upcoming refinery maintenance season heightened demand concerns and limited the uptick in oil prices.
A stronger dollar may put pressure on oil prices, making them costlier for other currency holders.
However, the sharp fall in US commercial crude oil inventories, which indicates increasing oil demand, limited further price declines.
According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), commercial crude oil inventories in the US fell by 4.7 million barrels, or 0.9%, to 507.8 million barrels for the week ending Aug. 21, compared to the market expectation of a decrease of 3.7 million barrels.
By Sibel Morrow