Oil under pressure from Euro zone debt concerns
Perth, December 16, 2010
Oil prices were steady to lower on Thursday as the prospect of a downgrade to Spain's sovereign credit rating sparked euro-zone debt concerns, outweighing positive US economic data.
US crude for January fell 7 cents to $87.71 a barrel by 0316 GMT, adding to losses from the previous session. ICE Brent dropped 46 cents to $90.75.
"Any positive data that comes out of the US is sidetracked by negative data coming out of the Euro zone," David Taylor, an analyst at CMC Markets in Sydney.
Euro zone leaders start a two-day meeting in Brussels expected to be closely watched by the markets on Thursday over sovereign debt and other economic issues.
"The net position is pretty much neutral at the moment, but it seems to be reasonably supported around the $88 per barrel mark."
Rating agency Moody's warned on Wednesday that it might downgrade Spain's debt rating due to its concerns about the nation's mounting debt and 2011 funding needs.
The ratings agency said it did not expect Madrid to have to follow Greece and Ireland into taking a European Union bailout, but said that it could not rule out that scenario.
The European debt worries sparked a rally in the dollar, putting pressure on oil prices. A stronger dollar can depress dollar-denominated oil prices as it makes fuel more expensive to holders of other currencies.
Strength in the greenback can also push investment into foreign exchange markets and out of from commodities.
Concerns over euro-zone debt overrode data showing strong industrial growth and low inflation in the world's number one oil consumer.
US industrial output rebounded in November to post its biggest gain since July, another sign of a faster pace of recovery in the fourth quarter, Federal Reserve data showed.
Government data also showed that inflation was low, with consumer prices posting a mild gain.
US crude stocks fell 9.9 million barrels last week, the biggest weekly decline since September 2002, according to data from the US Energy Information Administration. – Reuters