Related News

Home » Business » Energy

Oil prices fall below US$38 again as investors look to US earnings for clues

FALLING crude demand in the world's largest consuming nation drove oil prices yesterday to a new low for the year as the US enters a corporate earnings season expected to be fraught with bad news.

The strained economy outweighed factors that would normally boost the market - Mideast tensions, signs that OPEC was implementing large-scale production cuts, the ongoing Gazprom-Ukraine gas dispute and a winter season expected to deliver the coldest weather in a decade.

"It's amazing what the market's ignoring," said Phil Flynn, an analyst at Alaron Trading Corp "That really tells you the story of how bearish this is."

Light, sweet crude for February delivery fell 8 percent, or US$3.24, to settle at US$37.59 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

"Clearly, the focus this morning is back on the macroeconomics, and the concern that the demand for oil is just not going to be there any time soon, and there's going to be plenty of oil out there," Flynn said.

The Department of Energy last week reported bigger than expected inventories of oil, natural gas and gasoline, suggesting demand for energy continues to erode.

Traders are buying crude and putting into storage in hopes that it will be worth more at a later date. Oil tankers are being leased at sea. Storage space for crude became very hard to find at a key delivery point when the January contract expired a few weeks ago as unwanted oil flooded the market.

The contract price spread is creating an enormous incentive to build inventory, said oil trader and analyst Stephen Schork.

"Little wonder then why overall crude oil supplies have since jumped to a 35-week high," Schork wrote in his daily publication, The Schork Report.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, in an attempt to boost prices, has announced production cuts of 4.2 million barrels per day since September with the latest cuts going into effect at the beginning of the year.

Michael Lynch, president of Strategic Energy & Economic Research, said it takes four to six weeks for oil to transit on the market, so any bump from the latest cuts likely won't be felt until mid- to late-February.

"They will take effect, but not yet," Lynch said.

Demand for crude continues to be weak.

The largest US manufacturers have slashed spending on fuel and last week, aluminum producer Alcoa said it was cutting 13,500 jobs and making deep production cuts.

Alcoa, chip maker Intel and biotech company Genentech will report fourth quarter results this week, giving investors a glimpse of how deep the current recession may be.

Oil prices fell 17 percent last week, weighed by fears that rising US unemployment will undermine crude demand.

The Labor Department said Friday that employers slashed 524,000 jobs in December and 2.6 million jobs for all of 2008. The nation's unemployment rate jumped to 7.2 percent, the highest since 1993.

Raymond James analyst Darren Horowitz said in an analyst note that while the recession is dominating short-term prices, Saudi Arabia's weekend announcement that it would cut oil output by about 300,000 barrels per day below its target may lend support in the long term.

There are signs that the Russia-Ukraine gas dispute could be nearing an end.

Gazprom, Russia's gas company, said that Ukraine signed a deal yesterday to allow independent monitors to track natural gas supplies from Russia to Europe with no additional conditions. The agreement could open the way for a resumption of gas shipments to Europe through pipelines that cross Ukraine.

In other Nymex trading, heating oil futures slid 2.5 cents to settle at US$1.4724 a gallon, while natural gas for February delivery rose 2.6 cents to setle at US$5.542 per 1,000 cubic feet. Gasoline futures dropped 2.7 cents to settle at US$1.0841.

In London, February Brent crude fell US$1.51 to settle at US$42.91 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend