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NEW YORK: Oil prices fell on Thursday to six-month lows, as investors worried about sluggish energy demand in the US and China.

Brent crude futures dropped 48 cents to $73.82 a barrel by 12:48 pm EST (1748 GMT).

US West Texas Intermediate crude futures fell 33 cents to $69.05. Both benchmarks posted their lowest prices since late June. “With the largest global importer of oil (China) shuttering its thirst for crude, pressure remains on prices as the largest producer, the United States, continues with headline output,” said PVM Oil analyst John Evans.

US output remained near record highs of over 13 million barrels per day, US Energy Information Administration data showed on Wednesday. US gasoline stocks rose by 5.4 million barrels last week to 223.6 million barrels, the EIA said, more than quintuple the 1 million barrel build that had been expected.

Concerns about China’s economy also put a lid on oil’s price gains. Chinese customs data showed that crude oil imports in November fell 9% from a year earlier as high inventory levels, weak economic indicators and slowing orders from independent refiners weakened demand.

While China’s total imports dropped on a monthly basis, exports grew in November for the first time in six months, suggesting an uptick in global trade flows may be helping the manufacturing sector.

Ratings agency Moody’s put Hong Kong, Macau and many of China’s state-owned companies and banks on downgrade warnings on Wednesday, a day after it put a downgrade warning on China’s sovereign credit rating.

Oil prices have fallen by about 10% since OPEC+, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and allies, announced a combined 2.2 million barrels per day (bpd) in voluntary output cuts for the first quarter of next year.

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