(Bloomberg) -- Some of China’s biggest refiners have flagged an improving economic outlook for the world’s biggest crude importer, a bullish signal for an oil market that’s faltering on global slowdown concerns.

The economy is expected to be “much better” during the final three months of the year, compared with the third quarter, according to Wu Qiunan, the chief economist at PetroChina International. Some high frequency data may start to show better consumption in October, he said during a panel discussion at the annual Asia Pacific Petroleum Conference in Singapore.

China’s Covid Zero policy, which relies on lockdowns and mass testing to stamp out infections, has weighed heavily on the nation’s economy. That’s contributed to bearish headwinds for oil prices, which have tumbled around 30% since early June as concerns over a global slowdown take their toll on commodities.

The economic slump in China has passed and government stimulus has helped to boost confidence for consumers, according to Xin Sun, director at Shenghong Petrochemical International. Oil processing rates are improving and strong gasoline consumption will lead the recovery in transport fuel demand, said Chen Hongbing, deputy general manager at Rongsheng Petrochemical.

“We’re seeing green shoots in the Chinese economy,” Chen said on day three of the event hosted by S&P Global Commodity Insights. “I do believe that next year we’re going to see much more robust growth.”

Operating rates at China’s refineries are expected to increase to more than 80% of capacity on average in the fourth quarter, compared with 75% currently, Chen said. Any gradual easing of China’s Covid Zero policy will drive a recovery in oil consumption, led by motor fuel demand, he added.

(Updates with Rongsheng executive comment in fifth paragraph.)

©2022 Bloomberg L.P.