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Oil Prices Fall on Weak Demand Indicators, China Data

Oil prices fell in early Asian trade on Thursday on weaker-than-expected Chinese manufacturing data, but investors maintained caution ahead of an OPEC+ meeting where production cuts are expected.

Brent crude futures fell 28 cents, or 0.3 per cent, to $82.90 a barrel by 0024 GMT, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures fell 24 cents, or 0.3 per cent, to $77.68 a barrel.

China’s manufacturing activity contracted for a second straight month in November and at a quicker pace than expected, an official factory survey showed on Thursday, suggesting more policy support measures are needed to help shore up economic growth in the world’s largest oil importer.

The official purchasing managers’ index (PMI) fell to 49.4 in November from 49.5 in October, staying below the 50-point level demarcating contraction from expansion. Analysts polled by Reuters had expected a reading of 49.7.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration on Wednesday reported a surprise build in U.S. crude oil and distillate fuel stocks last week, indicating weak demand. Gasoline stocks also rose by more than expected, the data showed. [EIA/S]

Oil markets in the previous session found support from hopes of some form of a price-supportive resolution from the OPEC+ group, which includes the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies such as Russia.

Members of OPEC+ are due to hold a policy meeting on Thursday. Talks ahead of the meeting were focusing on additional production cuts, although details were yet to be agreed, sources close to the group told Reuters.

Another media report on Wednesday said that the cut could be as much as 1 million barrels a day.

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