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Oil prices fell on Friday as global markets weakened following North Korea’s latest missile launch, but crude remained close to five-month highs reached this week on bullish demand forecasts and US refineries restarting.
North Korea fired a missile that flew over Japan’s northern Hokkaido into the Pacific Ocean on Friday, South Korean and Japanese officials said. The action ratchets up tensions after Pyongyang’s test of its most powerful nuclear bomb.
“Oil is down because of the North Korean nuclear test which is bearish for stock markets therefore oil demand can be negatively impacted,” said Tamas Varga, senior analyst at London brokerage PVM Oil Associates. Benchmark Brent crude was down 18 cents at $55.29 a barrel at 08:43 GMT, reaching a low for the day of $54.86 a barrel.
But Brent was still on track for its third straight weekly gain and the highest weekly rise since the end of July. US West Texas Intermediate crude was down 16 cents at $49.73 a barrel. The contract was set for a 4.7 per cent weekly gain, also its strongest in nearly two months. The Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries this week forecast higher demand for its oil in 2018 and pointed to signs of a tighter global market, indicating its deal with non-OPEC states to cut output is helping tackle a glut.
That was followed by a report by the International Energy Agency (IEA) saying the global oil glut was shrinking thanks to strong European and US demand, as well as production declines in OPEC and non-OPEC countries.