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Oil Markets Shrug Off Gasoline Demand Fears

U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude oil futures are putting in a mixed performance on Friday, but still headed to their biggest weekly gain since mid-December as a slew of positive developments encouraged traders to add to their bullish positions.

The week started with the news that bullish hedge funds had returned to the market as the threat from the Omicron coronavirus variant receded. The early rally gained momentum after OPEC+ agreed to lift output in February in a move that suggested strong confidence in future demand.

Midweek, prices rose further after a drawdown in U.S. inventories confirmed the tightening supply situation. Finally, supply worries replaced demand concerns late in the week as unrest in Kazakhstan and outages in Libya spurred new concerns over global stockpiles. This development drove prices to within striking distance of the contract high.

Hedge Funds Rebuild Bullish Positions

The new year began with a report from Reuters indicating that portfolio investors had started to rebuild bullish positions in the oil market, reassessing earlier fears about the likely impact of the Omicron variant of coronavirus on major economies and passenger aviation in 2022.

Hedge funds and other money managers purchased the equivalent of 54 million barrels in the six most important petroleum futures and options contracts in the week to December 28.

Funds have purchased a total of 70 million barrels over the two most recent weeks, after selling…

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