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Oil Prices Rise Slightly Ahead Of U.S. Data, Asia Weighs

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Oil prices rose on Thursday ahead of weekly U.S. stocks data, despite fresh signs of an economic slowdown in China and Japan.

Crude prices have fallen more than 3 percent this week on persistent worries over global demand and a supply glut.

Benchmark crude futures nevertheless posted modest gains ahead of the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) oil stocks report at 1500 GMT, which is expected to show a rise, according to a Reuters survey.

Brent crude futures LCOc1 rose 29 cents to $47.87 per barrel by 1115 GMT. U.S. crude futures CLc1 were up 45 cents at $44.60 a barrel.

“A lot of this rally will be profit-taking ahead of the DoE numbers,” said Hamza Khan, commodities analyst at Netherlands-based ING Financial Markets.

“The stage is set for a recovery but as long as we keep getting disappointing numbers out of China it will weigh and delay a recovery,” Khan said.

Japan’s core machinery orders fell 3.6 percent in July, data showed on Thursday, much worse than a 3.7 percent increase expected by economists.

In Asia’s biggest economy, China, the producer price index fell 5.9 percent in August from the same period last year, its 42nd consecutive month of decline and the biggest drop since the depths of the global financial crisis in late 2009.

Car sales in China fell 3.0 percent in August from a year earlier to 1.7 million vehicles, the fifth straight monthly drop as the country’s slowest economic expansion in 25 years wiped out growth in the world’s top auto market.

ANZ bank said global growth for 2016 and 2017 would hold around 3.5 percent, revised down from the 4 percent it had previously forecast.

Oil prices have fallen over 50 percent since June 2014 as soaring output clashed with slowing economies in Asia, the main growth engine for commodities in recent years.

The fall was compounded after the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), led by Saudi Arabia, decided last November to keep output high to defend market share.

Although the price drop has led to a slowdown in U.S. shale production, the main driver of supply growth in recent years, the supply glut is likely to persist due to lower production costs.

“This is what ‘lower for longer’ really means: prices need to be lower in order to rebalance the market, especially with lower production costs making supply more resilient,” Societe General said in a note.