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Oil climbs as dollar slips, but demand outlook clouds market

By Sonali Paul

MELBOURNE, Nov 18 (Reuters) -

Oil prices rose on Friday as the dollar slipped but were headed for hefty weekly losses on expectations there will be no let-up in sharp U.S. interest rate hikes and the prospect of weaker demand from top oil importer China amid rising COVID-19 cases.

Brent crude futures clawed back 67 cents, up 0.8% to $90.45 a barrel at 0130 GMT, but were not far off a four-week low of $89.53 hit in the previous session.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures rose 70 cents, or 0.9%, to $82.34 a barrel, but held near a six-week low.

A slight decline in the dollar helped oil prices on Friday, as a weaker greenback makes oil cheaper for buyers holding other currencies.

However WTI is down more than 7% so far this week, while Brent is down nearly 6%.

Analysts said concerns about potential lockdowns in China to curb a surge in COVID cases, which hit their highest level since April, and worries that more interest rate hikes will drive the U.S. economy into recession cast a pall over the market.

"Oil prices remain under pressure, with demand squeezed by mounting China COVID-19 cases and fears of more aggressive hikes in U.S. interest rates," said Stephen Innes, managing partner at SPI Asset Management, in a note to clients.

Remarks from U.S. Federal Reserve officials this week dashed hopes of any tempering of aggressive U.S. interest rate hikes.

China reported 25,353 new COVID-19 infections on Nov. 17 up from 23,276 new cases a day earlier, the National Health Commission said on Friday.

"The policy settings in the city of Guangzhou in southern China, where COVID-19 cases have surged significantly, will be important to watch," Commonwealth Bank commodities analyst Vivek Dhar said in a note.

Recession concerns have dominated this week even with the European Union's ban on Russian crude looming on Dec. 5 and the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies, together known as OPEC+, tightening supply. (Reporting by Sonali Paul in Melbourne; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa)

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