Oil Prices Rise as China Factory Activity Expansion Boosts Demand Hopes

Early Friday Asian trade saw a rise in oil prices as optimism was bolstered by rising factory activity in China, the world’s second-largest crude consumer, and as worries over Middle Eastern supply intensified.

Brent futures rose 15 cents, or 0.19%, to $79.42 per barrel at 08:46 Bangkok time, bringing their weekly gain to nearly 6%. Meanwhile, U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude up 17 cents, or 0.23%, to $74.54, bringing the week’s gain to more than 8%.

According to official data released on Friday, manufacturing activity in China grew at a slower pace in March, suggesting that expectations of a strong post-COVID economic rebound are waning in the face of weaker global demand and a continuing property market collapse.

National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) data shows that March’s official manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI) was 51.9, down from 52.6 in February but still above the 50-point threshold that distinguishes growth from contraction on a monthly basis.

Oil prices jumped more than 1% on Thursday due to decreased U.S. oil stocks and a Kurdistan region export ban, offsetting a smaller-than-expected Russian supply drop.

As the northern export pipeline has been cut off, producers in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region of northern Iraq have shut down or restricted output at several oilfields. There will likely be further blackouts.

U.S. crude oil inventories dropped to a two-year low in the week ending March 24, according to the Energy Information Administration.