Oil falls a second day as worsening economic outlook sparks demand concern

April 20, 2011 - 0:0

Oil fell for a second day as signs of a worsening economic outlook in the U.S. stoked speculation fuel demand may falter.

Crude fell more than $2 a barrel, dipping below $120 in London on Tuesday, after Standard & Poor’s cut the U.S. long-term credit outlook on Monday, prompting concern the global economic recovery may falter. OPEC Secretary General Abdalla el-Badri said there is “no shortage of oil anywhere in the world.”
“The last couple of months we’ve focused on supply, now the market is focusing again on demand,” said Thina Saltvedt, an analyst at Nordea Bank AB in Oslo. “It looks like the price is starting to hurt the economy. Prices of $120 and above are going to weigh on the market.”
Brent crude oil for June settlement fell as much as $1.85, or 1.5 percent, to $119.76 and traded at $120.33 a barrel at 11:17 a.m. on the ICE Futures Europe exchange in London. On Monday, the contract slipped $1.84, or 1.5 percent, to $121.61, the lowest since April 12.
Crude oil for May delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange slid was down $1.02, or 1 percent, at $106.10 a barrel. On Monday, it declined $2.54 to settle at $107.12, the lowest since April 13. The contract expires on Tuesday. The more-actively traded June future fell $1.01 to $106.68.
=----------------U.S. debt rating
Standard & Poor’s put the U.S. government on notice that it risks losing its AAA credit rating unless policy makers agree on a plan to cut budget deficits and the national debt. Concern that Europe’s debt crisis is worsening sent Greek and Portuguese bond yields surging.
In Europe, a report on Tuesday showed services and manufacturing growth unexpectedly accelerated in April, suggesting the region’s economy is weathering surging energy costs and tougher austerity measures.
A composite index based on a survey of euro-area purchasing managers in both industries rose to 57.8 from 57.6 in March, London-based Markit Economics said in a statement on Tuesday. Economists had projected a drop to 57, the median of 13 estimates in a Bloomberg News survey showed. A reading above 50 indicates growth.
Oil declined on Monday after China increased banks’ reserve requirements to cool inflation, signaling fuel demand growth may slow, and Saudi Arabian Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said the market is “oversupplied.” The kingdom is the biggest supplier in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.
An Energy Department report tomorrow may show U.S. crude inventories increased 1.4 million barrels last week from 359.3 million, climbing for a seventh week, according to analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News.
-----------------$80 crude
Oil traders have turned $80 crude into the second-biggest bet in the options market as a surge in futures to the highest level since 2008 spurred concern demand may tumble.
Open interest, the number of contracts held by traders, more than doubled since January for $80 put options for December 2011 and 2012 as New York futures last week touched a 30-month high of $113.46 a barrel. The two puts, bets that prices will fall, account for 21 percent of the open interest among the top 10 contracts traded on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Options contracts that give investors the right to sell December 2012 futures at $80 a barrel rose 21 cents to $4.76 a barrel in electronic trading on Monday on the Nymex. December 2011 $80 puts gained 15 cents to $1.34.
Prices surged last week as fighting in Libya threatened to prolong supply cuts from Africa’s third largest producer. The United Nations has reached an agreement with Muammar Qaddafi’s regime that permits aid workers and supplies into Misrata, the Libyan city pounded by government forces in a push to reach the port providing the rebels’ supply line for food and weapons.
------------------------‘Something to watch’
The unrest is the bloodiest in a wave of uprisings that has toppled leaders in Egypt and Tunisia and spread to Algeria, Bahrain, Oman, Syria and Yemen. Libya’s crude production, which averaged 1.6 million barrels a day last year, shrank to 390,000 barrels a day in March, according to a Bloomberg News survey of producers, analysts and companies.
“The continuing conflict in Libya and the prospect of that spreading is still something to watch,” said Ben Westmore, a minerals and energy economist at National Australia Bank Ltd. in Melbourne.
In Nigeria, the incumbent leader, Goodluck Jonathan, won a presidential election as violent protests against the result killed at least six, underscoring the political risk in Africa’s biggest oil producer.
(Source: Bloomberg)