Crude oil price fall continues


Tumbling oil prices are nearing lows rarely seen since the petroleum industry gushed into life in Pennsylvania 140 years ago. A 40 per cent fall since October has experts peering into historical charts to identify a price floor for the futures markets that arbitrate the cost of world energy.

Canny financial funds and oil traders have made big gains by selling huge volumes of petroleum futures and buying them back again at cheaper prices.

But producers groaned this week when the price of an actual barrel of benchmark Brent crude reached a fresh low of $11.05, the weakest in nominal terms for nine years.

The lifeblood of industrial economies has not been as cheap in real terms for 25 years.

This realisation has summoned the spectre of a lengthy slump that could slow oil exploration and the development of production and reserves. This winter's price pain has been an unwelcome jolt for oil companies and producers who recently enjoyed healthy prices.

The fall has shrunk the earnings flooding into the treasuries of OPEC producers, raising fears for economic growth and the political stability of some of the oil-dependent states.