Oil Prices on the Slide as Fears Grow of Global Slump ; ENERGY

Article excerpt

OIL prices fell to just above $50 a barrel today, marking a loss of two-thirds in value from their peak in July.

The December Brent contract was down $1.77 at $50.60 while US crude slid $1.35 to $54.81.

The drop in oil prices has accelerated as economic news becomes bleaker, with traders focused on economic outlooks rather than the decision by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) to cut output.

Asian stock markets tumbled again today with the Nikkei down almost 6%, the Hang Seng in Hong Kong down 6.6% and Australia's All Ordinaries down more than 5% as new gloom gripped investors.

The threat of a deep global recession has led to downgrades of fuel consumption forecasts.

The US Energy Department slashed its 2009 oil consumption forecast and is expecting demand next year to drop more severely than any time since 1980. Petroleum consumption is projected to sink by 250,000 barrels per day, or 1.3%, more than twice that projected in its previous outlook.

Motorists, however, have only seen partial benefits from the dramatic slide in oil prices. According to the AA, average prices at the pump are 95.6p a litre, just 20% down from their highs.

Meanwhile, Premier Oil, which is expanding production in Asia, increased output in the September quarter by 5% to some 36,800 barrels a day and flagged the possibilities of acquisitions. …