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Oil rises as China eases COVID curbs, dollar weakens

By Shariq Khan

NEW YORK (Reuters) -Oil prices rose about a dollar per barrel on Thursday after top crude importer China eased COVID curbs in two major cities, while the U.S. dollar slumped on the view that the Federal Reserve might slow down on interest-rate hikes.

The shift in China's zero-COVID strategy raised optimism about a recovery in oil demand there. The cities of Guangzhou and Chongqing announced an easing of COVID curbs on Wednesday.

Brent crude was up 90 cents, or 1%, at $87.87 a barrel by 1:05 pm EDT (1805 GMT). U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures added $1.50, or 1.9%, to $82.05.

"Oil markets are going to continue to be buffeted by ongoing news out of China, given how much of an impact ongoing lockdowns are having on oil demand in the world's second-largest consumer," said Matt Smith, lead oil analyst at Kpler.

The dollar index slumped to its lowest since August after the U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said rate hikes could slow this month. A weaker dollar makes oil cheaper for other currency holders.

Crude prices were also supported by hopes of another potential output cut from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and allies, a group known as OPEC+, which meets on Dec. 4.

On Wednesday, sources called a policy change unlikely, but some feel a further cut cannot be ruled out.

"I believe the OPEC+ meeting forces shorts to cover, but the consensus is unchanged quota levels," said Tamas Varga, of oil broker PVM.

Both oil benchmarks are on target for their first weekly gains after three consecutive weeks of decline. Brent touched $80.61 Monday, lowest since Jan. 4.

The prospect of a lower price cap on Russian oil is also lending support, analysts said. European Union governments tentatively agreed on Thursday on a $60 cap on Russian sea-borne oil, an EU diplomat said.

"After dipping into the mid-$70s at the start of the week, oil is now shifting focus to the OPEC meeting on Sunday, Russian sanctions, and the absence of large SPR barrels hitting commercial inventories - all three of these are price supportive," Smith said.

(Reporting by Shariq Khan, additional reporting by Jeslyn Lerh in Singapore; Editing by Kirsten Donovan, David Goodman, Arun Koyyur, David Gregorio and Diane Craft)

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