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A recovery in oil prices was struggling to take hold in Asian trading on Friday, keeping prices at their lowest level in just over five months.

A resurgence in the US shale industry and concerns about Opec’s ability to curb output have cast doubt on the sustainability of a recovery in the oil market.

Brent crude, the international benchmark, was less than 0.1 per cent higher in Asia on Friday at $48.39 a barrel, but fell 4.8 per cent yesterday to close below the $50 mark for the first time since November 29, just before Opec approved its first supply cuts in eight years.

Prices had been up by as much as 0.3 per cent earlier today.

West Texas Intermediate was flat at $45.52, also recovering from Thursday’s 4.8 per cent drop.

Executives at a number of oil companies that have reported solid results over the past week have also flagged doubts about the outlook, saying they still expected volatility and uncertainty in the commodity markets.

Iron ore futures were down by as much as the daily limit of 8 per cent to Rmb458.5 ($66.48) a tonne on the Dalian Commodity Exchange. It was their lowest level in six months, and iron ore is now eyeing an 8.4 per cent decline for the week, its worst weekly performance since late March.

The futures price for coking coal, used in steel making, was down 4.1 per cent in Dalian, while futures for thermal coal, used in electricity generation, were off by 1.6 per cent on the Zhengzhou Commodity Exchange. Prices have also come under pressure amid a rise in short-term borrowing costs in China to two-year highs, squeezing liquidity.

Gold was flat at $1,228.18 an ounce, but by Thursday had fallen for four straight sessions, the longest losing streak in two months.

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