US oil settles down 1.7%, at $44.60 a barrel

Rusted out 'pump-jacks' in the oil town of Luling, Texas.
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Oil prices closed lower on Friday after oilfield services company Baker Hughes said the number of rigs exploring for oil and natural gas in the U.S. this week declined by one to 594.

Benchmark Brent crude pared some losses after the announcement. It was last down 6 cents at $48 a barrel. It was on course for a weekly decline of about 5 percent.

U.S. crude for December closed down 1.7 percent, at $44.60 a barrel.

Crude headed lower: Traders

Earlier, the People's Bank of China (PBOC) cut its benchmark one-year lending rate for the sixth time since November by 25 basis points to 4.35 percent in its latest effort to boost the country's economy whose rapid growth stalled.

But the positive tone was offset by persistent concerns over a glut in global crude oil and refined product supplies which have battered the energy market for over a year.

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"The rate cut does give some support to demand expectations so oil's gone a bit higher and it's a little bit positive for the moment," said Hans van Cleef, senior energy economist at ABN Amro in Amsterdam.

"However as soon as supply data comes out, and people see we are in an oversupplied market, sentiment will come off."

U.S. oil inventories climbed by a larger-than-expected 8 million barrels to 476.6 million last week.

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A signal from European Central Bank President Mario Draghi on Thursday that new euro zone initiatives could be unveiled as soon as December to stoke the economy initially added further tailwind to the demand outlook.

But a sharp drop of the euro against the dollar also meant that oil and other commodities would be more expensive for buyers in other currencies, potentially dampening demand.

Jonathan Barratt, chief investment officer at Ayers Alliance, said markets had decided governments would not allow economies to falter.

"These expectations suggest more active economic development will force consumption to go up," Barratt added.

European stock markets joined a global share surge that buoyed overall sentiment.

Adding further support to an outlook shaken in recent months by weaker growth in emerging economies including China, Japanese manufacturing expanded in October at what could be its fastest pace in 19 months, according to Markit/Nikkei Japan Flash Manufacturing PMI data.