Oil up but still near multi-week lows

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    SINGAPORE/MELBOURNE- Oil prices edged up on Thursday, but held near multi-week lows hit overnight after US data showed gasoline demand fell and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic was lagging.

    US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were up 9 cents, or 0.22 percent, at $41.60 a barrel. Brent crude edged up 2 cents, or 0.05 percent, to $44.45 a barrel.

    Both benchmarks fell more than 2 percent on Wednesday, with WTI sliding to its lowest close in nearly four weeks and Brent at its weakest since Aug. 21.

    US gasoline demand last week fell to 8.78 million barrels per day (bpd) from 9.16 million bpd a week earlier.

    Other data, such as US private employers hiring fewer workers than expected for a second straight month in August, also fed fears that economic recovery was lagging.

    Analysts warn that the upcoming refinery maintenance and the end of summer driving season would also limit crude demand.

    WTI crude has come under pressure “after US refiners earmarked a long list of maintenance closures over the coming months that will no doubt impact demand for crude oil,” ANZ Research said in a note on Thursday.

    “This is compounded by weak refining margins, which are their lowest in nearly a decade for this time of the year.”

    Due to shutdowns ahead of Hurricane Laura, US refinery utilization rates fell by 5.3 percentage points to 76.7 percent of total capacity.