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Oil below US$80 as slow China chimes with OPEC warning

Thursday, November 13, 2014 - 18:12
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Oil fell below US$80 a barrel for the first time since 2010 on Thursday, as more evidence of a slowdown in China's resource-hungry economy chimed with OPEC warning of a substantial drop in demand next year.

[LONDON] Oil fell below US$80 a barrel for the first time since 2010 on Thursday, as more evidence of a slowdown in China's resource-hungry economy chimed with OPEC warning of a substantial drop in demand next year.

Data from Beijing showed below-forecast factory output and investment growth hitting a near 13-year low, reinforcing signs that the world's second-biggest economy will see its weakest growth for almost 24 years this year.

Share markets, however, were not put off, wagering that the China data could encourage more support measures from the Chinese authorities and the slide in oil could be a boost for growth worldwide.

European shares rose 0.4 per cent in opening trading in a small rebound from falls on Wednesday, and Asian and emerging markets shares had also inched higher.

But it was oil that remained the focus as it hovered at US$79.85.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) said in its latest report on Wednesday that demand for oil was expected to drop by around a million barrels a day next year because of the US shale boom.

Its top producer, Saudi Arabia, also gave little away about whether it will cut output to remove surplus oil from the market, ahead of what is shaping up to be a landmark OPEC meeting on Nov 27.

"There are not many bullish factors to lift the market now," said Avtar Sandu, senior manager for commodities at Phillip Futures in Singapore. "But it's not a one-way street down. Those who have been selling want to take profits around this area." The dollar added to the pressure on oil as it moved towards a recent seven-year high against the yen, driven by speculation that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will call a snap election in December.

A senior figure in Abe's ruling party told reporters it appeared the premier had decided to call an election. If he wins economists believe it will clear the way for further stimulus measures.

Oil's fall also put renewed pressure on Russia's hard hit rouble.

It was last down over one per cent at 46.27 to the dollar and with tensions also bubbling in Ukraine again, traders were watching to see whether the central bank would be forced into more decisive action to defend the currency. "Market participants are guessing about the central bank's next policy step after heavy verbal interventions recently and the limit imposed on FX swap operations," Maxim Korovin, a forex analyst at VTB Capital, said in a note.

In Europe's bond markets, Italian and Spanish yields dipped as a downbeat survey from the European Central Bank underlined the need for further policy easing, though the euro bucked the trend, rising 0.2 per cent against the dollar.

Safe-haven gold was at US$1,160.76 per ounce, above Friday's 4 1/2-year low of US$1,131.85, while growth-attuned metal copper rose 0.2 per cent to US$6,694 a tonne on hopes for stimulus measures from China.

REUTERS