Brent crude slips below $101

Weak economic results from China and US stoke investor concerns

 

Oil futures fell more than $2 today, with Brent hitting a fresh nine-month low below $101 a barrel, after Chinese and US data stoked investors' concerns of a slowdown in economic growth in the world's top oil consumers.

China's economic recovery unexpectedly stumbled in the first three months of 2013, with the annual rate of growth easing to 7.7 per cent from 7.9 per cent in the final quarter of last year. Economists had forecast 8 per cent growth.

Prices fell across assets from commodity markets -- including oil, gold and copper -- to Asian shares following the release of the weaker-than-expected China data.

"The China data is going to have a major impact on an already weak commodity market," said Jonathan Barratt, chief executive of commodity research firm BarrattBulletin.

"Generally the trend for commodities remains weak at the moment given that China is not performing the way we've always wanted it to perform, which suggests (prices are) coming under pressure."

Brent crude futures dropped more than $2 hitting a more than nine-month low of $100.84 a barrel before edging up to $100.85 by 04.50am Irish time.

US crude futures lost more than $2 to hit its lowest in more than three months at $88.46 before recovering to $88.90 by 04.52am.

The China data followed a Friday report showing US retail sales contracted in March for the second time in three months, a sign the top oil-consuming economy may have stumbled at the end of the first quarter.

"I think oil needs to still find a bottom. I'm always leaning to the bullish side, but the US economic data hasn't been great lately and China faltering is unsettling," said Carl Larry, president of the Houston-based Oil Outlooks and Opinion.

"There's much more competition out there to sell a barrel of oil. Outside of OPEC, you have their neighbour Russia who's pushing its barrels too."

Friday's weak US retail sales data followed forecasts for lower global oil demand growth for 2013 released last week by the International Energy Agency, the US Energy Information Administration and the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.

The World Bank has also scaled back its 2013 growth forecasts for developing East Asia today and warned about possible over-heating in the region's larger economies that could stoke inflation and asset bubbles, exacerbating investor concerns over oil demand.

The global lender, in its latest East Asia and Pacific Update, cut its GDP growth projection for China by 0.1 percentage point to 8.3 per cent for 2013, citing Beijing's ongoing efforts to restructure its economy.

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