October 8, 2012 / 3:28 AM / 5 years ago

Brent slips below $111, weak economy offsets supply worries

A worker holds up a fuel pump nozzle after filling up the tank of a car at a petrol station in Cairo October 3, 2012. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Brent crude slipped below $111 per barrel on Monday, dropping for a second straight session on concern that a fragile global economy could curb oil demand, but supply worries stemming from tension in the Middle East may help check losses.

The World Bank cut on Monday its economic growth forecasts for the East Asia and Pacific region, home to two of the world’s largest oil consumers, and said there was a risk the slowdown in China could get worse and last longer than expected.

Concerns about Europe persisted with the region’s largest economy, Germany, posting a drop in industrial orders in August, while a firm dollar after a surprise drop in the U.S. jobless rate also curbed oil prices. A stronger dollar makes commodities priced in the greenback more expensive for holders of other currencies.

Brent November crude hit a low of $110.86 and was down 82 cents to $111.20 a barrel by 0702 GMT. U.S. November crude fell 90 cents to $88.98 after slipping to a low of $88.71.

“It’s reflective of the weak market conditions at the moment,” Natalie Rampono, a commodity strategist with ANZ in Melbourne said, adding that fundamentals were looking weaker, particularly with U.S. shale oil output rising significantly.

“The oil price has gone ahead of itself in the last few months,” she said.

Investors have turned more cautious as hedge funds and other large speculators cut their bets on higher oil prices for the second straight week in the seven days to October 2, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission said.

“Oil is still finely balanced. On the one hand, we still have effects of a slowing economy and what that means for oil demand. On the other hand, there is oil supply risk at the moment,” said Michael Creed, an economist at National Australia Bank.

Oil prices continued to draw support from worries about potential threats to supply as the Syrian civil conflict drags on and as Iran’s dispute with the West over its nuclear program persists.

Turkey returned fire for a fifth day against incoming bombardment from northern Syria. The exchanges are the most serious cross-border violence in Syria’s conflict and highlight how the crisis could destabilize the region.

The United States and Europe are looking at more economic sanctions to pressure Iran to abandon its nuclear program.

Middle East conflicts and delays in the October loading of North Sea Forties cargoes have pushed Brent’s premium to U.S. crude to its highest since October 2011.

“As those supplies come back online, we should start to see it narrowing,” Creed said, referring to the Forties delay.

The spotlight will be back on the euro zone this week as German Chancellor Angela Merkel visits Greece while the world’s finance ministers meet in Luxembourg.

The closely watched presidential election in Venezuela came to an end with socialist President Hugo Chavez being re-elected, quashing the opposition’s best chance at unseating him in 14 years and cementing himself as a dominant figure in modern Latin American history.

Additional reporting by Manolo Serapio Jr; Editing by Himani Sarkar and Clarence Fernandez

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