Oil slides below $68 on weaker demand worries

VIENNA, Austria - November 5, 2008 Even indications that OPEC was enacting its decision to take a daily 1.5 million barrels of crude from the market failed to support prices.

Light, sweet crude for December delivery was down $2.96 to $67.57 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange by noon in Europe. The downward trend came despite a rally in Asian stock markets after Democrat Barack Obama claimed a historic victory in U.S. presidential elections.

The contract overnight rose $6.62 to settle at $70.53 as the two-year U.S. presidential election campaign wrapped up.

"This is partly just a correction from a very large gain yesterday," said David Moore, commodity strategist at Commonwealth Bank of Australia in Sydney. "In the near term, worries about the international economic outlook will be really hard to overcome. The data flow is going to contain a lot of negatives that create pressure on the oil price."

Economic indicators out of the U.S. this week suggest the world's largest economy may be heading for its worst recession in decades. A Commerce Department report Tuesday said factory orders fell 2.5 percent in September from August, much worse than analysts had predicted.

On Monday, U.S. manufacturers reported poor figures for October, showing the worst reading in more than a quarter century, according to the Institute for Supply Management.

The slowdown, which was sparked by a credit crisis that began in the U.S. last year, shows signs of spreading across the world. Credit Suisse on Monday cut its forecast for growth in China's oil demand next year to nearly zero from 4 percent on the back of lower economic growth forecasts.

"There are two forces working on the oil price," Moore said. "One is fear of weaker consumption and the other is OPEC cutting output to wind back surpluses in the market."

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries said last month it would cut output quotas by 1.5 million barrels a day along with a 520,000 barrel cut announced earlier. Venezuelan Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez has said OPEC, which controls about 40 percent of world crude oil production, may slash production by at least 1 million barrels daily when it meets next in December.

"It's not yet clear that OPEC is disciplined in cutting production," Moore said. "Compliance will be a key issue going forward."

But JBC Energy in a market note cited reports of some OPEC cuts being enacted.

"The (Saudi) kingdom has reportedly notified refiners that November crude shipments will be around 900,000 ... (barrels a day) ... lower than August volumes," said the Vienna-based JBC. "Similar reports were also recently heard from Venezuela, Algeria, Qatar, and the UAE."

Oil prices have fallen by about 55 percent since peaking at $147.27 a barrel in mid-July.

In other Nymex trading, gasoline futures fell more than 7 cents to fetch $1.46 a gallon, heating oil plunged more than 8 cents to $2.08 a gallon and natural gas for December delivery fell 10 cents to trade at $7.12 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In London, December Brent crude fell $2.17 to $64.27 on the ICE Futures exchange.


Associated Press writer Alex Kennedy contributed to this report from Singapore.

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