Oil prices slip as demand concerns weigh

NEW YORK, Jan. 22 (Xinhua) -- Oil prices moved lower on Friday amid renewed concerns over weaker fuel demand.

The West Texas Intermediate for March delivery lost 86 cents to settle at 52.27 U.S. dollars a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude for March delivery decreased 69 cents to close at 55.41 dollars a barrel on the London ICE Futures Exchange.

"Concerns about demand have moved back into focus on the oil market," Eugen Weinberg, energy analyst at Commerzbank Research, said in a note on Friday.

"The high numbers of new corona cases, sluggish progress with vaccinations in some cases and tougher and longer mobility restrictions in Europe are weighing on investor sentiment," he said.

Meanwhile, prices were under pressure as data showed U.S. crude stockpiles rose unexpectedly last week.

U.S. crude oil inventories increased by 4.4 million barrels during the week ending Jan. 15, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said in a report on Friday. U.S. petroleum supplies data were delayed by two days this week due to Monday's Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday, and Wednesday's U.S. presidential inauguration.

Analysts polled by S&P Global Platts had estimated the EIA publication to show crude inventories down by 2.5 million barrels.

For the week, U.S. crude benchmark declined 0.3 percent while Brent eked out a gain of 0.6 percent, based on the front-month contracts.

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