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[SINGAPORE] Oil prices traded near five-year lows in thin year-end trade Tuesday, as analysts predicted further bearishness in the market owing to rising US production despite a global supply glut.
West Texas Intermediate for February delivery fell 49 US cents to US$53.12 while Brent crude for February lost 55 US cents to US$57.33 in afternoon trade.
WTI closed down US$1.12 to US$53.61 in New York while Brent fell 57 US cents in London to US$57.88. Both contracts last traded at those levels in May 2009.
"We are seeing light volumes in Asian trading... oil prices have once again touched new lows over longer term concerns about US production levels," Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets in Sydney, told AFP.
"Bullishness is contained, and I think we will be seeing a consolidation pattern as we head to the close of the year," he added.
Oil has shed about half its value since June, attributed to slowing growth in China and emerging-market economies, a recession in Japan and a near-stall in the eurozone.
On top of that, the OPEC oil-producing cartel last month said it would maintain output levels despite ample global supplies, in part due to cheaper oil extracted from North American shale rock.
Analysts said traders were also girding for more downward pressure stirred up by the impact of a brewing Greek political crisis, expected poor numbers on China's industrial sector, and another possible increase in US stockpiles.
The US Energy Information Administration will on Wednesday release stockpiles data for the week to December 26.