Oil prices steadied as buyers returned to the market on Friday to take advantage of a five percent slump set off by speculative fund sell-off on Thursday. Brent crude futures in London were trading 18 cents stronger at $21.60 a barrel, clawing back some of the losses sustained in Thursday's dramatic $1.17 fall.
The losses were caused by funds selling futures in response to technical indicators, denting OPEC's hopes of keeping prices firm while they hold a tight rein on production. Sentiment has been damaged by poor refinery profit margins in the United States
and an expectation among industry watchers that OPEC compliance with output limits will weaken rather than strengthen as time goes on.
Buyers returned to the fray on Friday, seeing opportunities in a market underpinned by falling stockpiles of refined products at the start of the winter heating oil season