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Oil prices tumble amid weak economic data

Oil prices tumbled on Thursday (Aug 14), with the US benchmark dropping 2.1 per cent, as investors weighed a mounting batch of weak economic data from around the world.

NEW YORK: Oil prices tumbled on Thursday (Aug 14), with the US benchmark dropping 2.1 per cent, as investors weighed a mounting batch of weak economic data from around the world.

The main US futures contract, West Texas Intermediate for September delivery, tumbled US$2.01 (S$2.50) to close at US$95.58 (S$119.11) a barrel, its lowest level since January. European benchmark Brent North Sea crude for delivery in September dropped US$2.27 (S$2.82) to settle at US$102.01 (S$127.12) in London trade. That marked its lowest closing level since late June 2013.

The market reacted to data showing growth in the 18-country eurozone stalled in the second quarter. Analysts had expected a 0.2 per cent expansion, and the flatlining raised questions about the strength of demand in the single-currency bloc.

Germany, Europe's largest economy, shrank by 0.2 per cent, and France, the second-largest, had zero growth for the second consecutive quarter.

"The data predated the imposition of tighter sanctions against Russia that are seen as weighing further on Germany's overall economic performance," said Phil Flynn of Price Futures Group. "The reopening of the Forties pipeline in the North Sea and an uptick in Libyan oil production may also be contributing something to the market's sense that supply is abundant, and demand in question."

Earlier, too, there were more signs of economic weakness elsewhere that weakened oil price support: bank lending in China sank in July; Japan's economy shrank at an annualised rate of 6.8 per cent in the second quarter; and US retail sales were flat in July compared with the prior month.

"We are falling off the cliff again," said James Williams of WTRG Economics. "If there is anything that causes lower (oil) prices it is weak economies."