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Oil Prices Fall As Demand Concerns Weigh

Oil prices fell on Thursday as worries about a possible slowdown in oil demand outweighed expectations that major producers are likely to enact deeper output cuts.

Benchmark Brent crude fell 1.1 percent to $55.20 per barrel, after having climbed 3.2 percent on Wednesday.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were down 0.8 percent at $50.76 a barrel, after gaining 2.5 percent the previous day on news that the number of new coronavirus cases slowed in China.

Concerns over China's coronavirus outbreak hitting demand for fuel intensified after some 242 deaths from the new coronavirus were recorded in the Chinese province of Hubei on Wednesday - the bulk of it due to a reclassification.

There was also a huge increase in the number of cases, with 14,840 people diagnosed with the virus.

OPEC has dramatically lowered its forecast for oil demand growth this year, saying the coronavirus outbreak has added to the uncertainties surrounding global economic growth in 2020.

In a closely-watched monthly report published Wednesday, the producer group revised its outlook for global oil demand growth to 0.99 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2020 - down by 0.23 million bpd from the previous month's estimate because of travel restrictions to and from the country and quarantines within it.

Investors were also reacting to EIA data released on Wednesday showing a jump in U.S. crude stockpiles last week. According to the Energy Information Administration, crude stockpiles in the U.S. were up by 7.5 million barrels in the week ended February 7, more than three times the expected increase.

On Tuesday, the American Petroleum Institute released a report that said crude oil stockpiles rose by 6 million barrels last week.

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