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Oil steadies on bargain-hunting; virus fears cap gains

Oil steadied on Tuesday as investors sought bargains after crude benchmarks slumped almost 4% in the previous session, although concerns about the coronavirus spreading out of China denting major economies and curbing fuel demand capped gains.Brent crude rose 19 cents, or 0.3%, to $56.49 a barrel by 0436 GMT, after slipping 3.8% on Monday, the largest single-day price fall since Feb. 3.U.S. crude futures gained 17 cents, or 0.3%, to $51.60, recovering from a 3.7% drop in the previous session.”Because we’ve seen a very significant fall in case of West Texas, from above $60 to touch below $50 (over the past six weeks), I think oil has largely reflected a lot of risk, unlike other markets,” Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets, told Reuters over the phone.Crude markets are also close to an important technical support level between $49.50 and $50 for WTI and between $54.50 and $55 for Brent, McCarthy said.

“For this week, key factors are coronavirus, inventory data and the technical picture,” he said.Demand concerns savaged prices for oil and a whole swathe of commodities on Monday, while both U.S. and European equities suffered their steepest losses since mid-2016.Asian share markets were trying to stabilise on Tuesday after a wave of early selling petered out and Wall Street futures managed a solid bounce. [MKTS/GLOB]In the United States, crude oil inventories were seen building for a fifth straight week, while refined products likely fell, a preliminary Reuters poll on the expectations for the week ended on Feb. 21 showed on Monday.Countries around the world are stepping up efforts to prevent a pandemic of the flu-like SARS-CoV-2 virus originating from China late last year that has now infected more than 80,000 people, 10 times more than the SARS coronavirus of 2002/2003.