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Is Chinese oil demand starting to crack?

Signs of weakness abound. But the country's robust consumption of gasoline remains a wildcard for the market

China has an outsized influence on world oil and remains the most important market to watch. It's sending some confusing signals too. Since the start of the year global oil prices have slumped, turmoil has gripped the country's equities and a weakening currency has fueled concerns about the strength of the nation's economy. Nonetheless, Chinese crude imports recorded a record high in December. Moreover, while apparent demand, which does not include topping up the strategic petroleum reserve (SPR), was impressive in 2015 at 11.2m barrels a day - expanding some 5% year-on-year - oil data from the fourth quarter finally started to reflect weaker economic activity. This is likely to persist in

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