In Asia, oil prices are up 84 cents to $47.80 a barrel as investors gauge the impact of slowing US and Chinese economies.
Oil gains after plunging to 3-year low
SINGAPORE // Oil prices rose slightly today in Asia after hitting a three-year low overnight as investors tried to gauge how much the slowing US and Chinese economies will hurt demand for crude. Light, sweet crude for January delivery was up 84 cents to US$47.80 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange by midafternoon in Singapore. The contract fell $2.32 overnight to settle at $46.96, after touching $46.82, the lowest level since hitting $46.20 intraday on May 20 2005.
"The rallies we've seen have been false rallies, relief rallies," said Mark Pervan, senior commodity strategist with ANZ Bank in Melbourne. "The mood is overwhelmingly bearish at the moment." Investors have been discouraged by growing evidence that China's economy, the world's fourth largest, may slow more than previously expected. Property prices in China have plunged, leading analysts to expect a drop in construction, an important driver of Chinese growth.
The World Bank last week cut its 2009 Chinese growth forecast to 7.5 per cent, the slowest in almost two decades. "There are much clearer signs that China is slowing, and this has caused the recent leg down in prices," Mr Pervan said. "The US remains the major market, but the downturn in China is accelerating." Oil prices have fallen about 68 per cent since peaking at $147.27 in July. A production cut by the Opec in October failed to halt the slide in prices, and now the group is asking non-Opec producers for help. The Opec president Chakib Khelil said yesterday oil producers such as Russia, Norway and Mexico should "express their solidarity" with Opec, either by joining the cartel or by following its reductions of output quotas. Russian officials have said they are preparing a co-operation agreement with Opec that could be examined at the cartel's meeting this month in Algeria.
"If Russia cuts production, it gives a bearish signal because it shows Russia is clearly concerned about short-term weak demand," Mr Pervan said. "Russia only reacts under major duress." In other Nymex trading, gasoline futures rose 1.48 cents to $1.07 a gallon. Heating oil gained 0.96 cent to $1.59 a gallon while natural gas for January delivery was up one cent to 6.43 per 1,000 cubic feet. In London, January Brent crude rose 82 cents to $46.26 on the ICE Futures exchange.