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WTI crude oil prices held steady at or near $77 per barrel as traders weighed concerns about rising US crude supplies and further central bank policy tightening against optimism about China’s demand recovery.

Russian exports of discounted crude and fuel oil to China, the world’s leading crude importer, reached record levels in January, the latest indication of China’s rebounding energy demand following the country’s exit from the zero-Covid policy.

In light of rising Chinese consumption, both OPEC and the International Energy Agency (IEA) raised their expectations for oil demand growth in 2023. The US oil benchmark, on the other hand, lost about 4% last week after the US government announced plans to release 26 million barrels of oil from strategic reserves.

Additionally, the most recent data indicated an increase in US crude oil inventories that was significantly greater than anticipated. At the March meeting of the Federal Reserve, some officials also indicated that they are open to a larger 50 basis point rate hike to control inflation, prompting investors to reduce their risk asset holdings.

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