The oil-price slide was partially halted on Wednesday (20 July 2016) after data pointed to a decline in US crude inventories, while gold futures took a tumble as profit-taking trumped marginal safe-haven calls during the afternoon in Europe.

At 3:56pm BST, the West Texas Intermediate crude oil futures contract reversed earlier declines, gaining 0.76% or 34 cents to $44.99 a barrel, having threatened to head below $44 a barrel in Asian trading.

Concurrently, Brent futures rose 0.96% or 45 cents to $47.11 a barrel as US government data pointed to a ninth consecutive weekly decline in crude stockpiles.

The country's Energy Information Administration said commercial crude stockpiles fell by 2.3m barrels to a total of 519.5m barrels Stateside. Nonetheless, concerns over global demand growth continue to dominate market discourse in the wake of Brexit and the Italian banks crisis in Europe.

While the International Energy Agency and Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) forecasts remain in 1.2-1.4 million barrels a day (bpd) range, but comments earlier in the week by investment bank Morgan Stanley suggest even a figure of 800,000 bpd would be a stretch too far.

In a note to clients, analysts at Vienna-based JBC Energy observed: "In May, the only region to show actual growth was OECD Asia, while the Middle East and Non-OECD Asia were more or less flat."

Russia also contributed added to bearish market sentiment after a senior government official told Reuters that the country was not in any discussions with OPEC, and that Russian oil production would rise to 542-544m tonnes over 2016; a production level dating back to highs of the Soviet era.

Elsewhere, gold and silver took a knock as strengthening of equity market sentiment, stronger dollar, receding safe-haven calls and profit taking by traders dragged precious metals lower.

At 4:08pm BST, Comex gold futures were 1.09% or $14.50 lower at $1,317.80 an ounce. However, FXTM Research Analyst Lukman Otunuga said: "Regardless of these short-term losses, this yellow metal has the ability to rebound as the IMF's gloomy growth outlook rekindles a wave of jitters consequently boosting appetite for safe-haven assets.

"Gold bulls need to defend the $1,320 support for a potential incline back towards $1,345. A sharp decline below $1,320 could leave the precious metal vulnerable to further losses."

Overnight, Sucden Financial analysts said gold could range between $1,210 and $1,425 an ounce in the third quarter. Finally, Comex silver futures were 2.28%, or 46 cents lower at $19.55 an ounce, while spot platinum was down by 0.97% or $10.59 to $1,082.11 an ounce.