London — Oil prices extended their slide last week, kicking off the new year with five-and-a-half-year low, as tepid eurozone demand offset a pick-up in the US economy.
The dollar strengthened, hitting demand for commodities like crude and metals priced in the US unit. Oil prices slumped to a new five-and-a-half-year low on Friday, on signs of weak manufacturing output in Europe.
West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for delivery in February, the US benchmark, struck $52.03 a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for February tumbled to $55.48 — the lowest levels since mid-2009.
“With global manufacturing weakening, from China to the USA to Europe, and Russia and Iraq making production gains, for oil, the New Year is much the same as the old year — abysmal,” said Connor Campbell, analyst at Spreadex traders.
WTI lost 46 per cent of its value last year and Brent was down 48 per cent, with most of the freefall happening since June, when prices were above $100.
Rising US and Canadian oil production has contributed to ample global supplies at a time of slowing growth in China, the world’s largest energy consumer, and other emerging market economies, a recession in Japan and a near-stall in the 18-nation eurozone. A decision last month by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec), which supplies about a third of the world’s oil, to leave output unchanged despite the price plunge also rattled the market, adding further pressure on prices.
Daniel Ang, investment analyst at Phillip Futures in Singapore, pointed to expectations for a price rebound in 2015. He said the global supply glut could likely be alleviated by current low oil prices affecting “existing shale oil rigs, causing them to shut off, keeping US crude oil production in check”.
“In 2015, we believe that crude demand would be linked to how China, Japan and the eurozone perform. If we start to see the situation for these countries improve, a reversal from the demand side could happen,” Ang added.
By Friday on London’s Intercontinental Exchange, Brent North Sea crude for delivery in February slumped to $57.02 a barrel from $60.23 on Wednesday of the previous week. On the New York Mercantile Exchange, West Texas Intermediate or light sweet crude for February tumbled to $53.49 a barrel from $55.89.
Gold fell slightly over last week, benefitting from its status as a haven investment amid Greece’s political woes, while coming under pressure from a firmer dollar.
“This strong dollar was a blow to gold, as the yellow metal fell on the back of the US currency’s stellar start to the year,” said Campbell. “Gold had a relatively stable, if uninspired, end to 2014, as oil drew most of the focus in the commodity sector. With the dollar continuing to negate the metal as a viable alternative investment, gold looks set to continue its poor performance trend in the short term.”
Greece’s parliament was dissolved on Wednesday ahead of an early election watched warily by markets and international creditors concerned that the country could start unwinding fiscal reforms.
By Friday on the London Bullion Market, the price of gold fell to $1,172 an ounce from $1,177 on Wednesday of the previous week.
Silver slipped to $15.71 an ounce from $15.77. On the London Platinum and Palladium Market, platinum dipped to $1,193 an ounce from $1,199. Palladium decreased to $791 an ounce from $809.
Base or industrial metals were mixed, with copper falling to a 4.5-year low of $6,230 a tonne following poorly-received Chinese data.
Analysts at broker Triland Metals noted that the “slowing growth rate in China is worrying the markets”, adding that copper was pushed down also by lower output in Chile.
China’s manufacturing growth dropped in December to its lowest level of 2014, an official survey showed on Thursday, as the sector struggles with weak domestic demand.
By Friday on the London Metal Exchange, copper for delivery in three months dropped to $6,242.25 a tonne from $6,342.50 on Wednesday of the previous week. Three-month aluminium declined to $1,846 a tonne from $1,874.50. Three-month lead edged up to $1,860.25 a tonne from $1,858.50. Three-month tin rose to $19,275 a tonne from $18,365. Three-month nickel retreated to $14,971 a tonne from $15,482. Three-month zinc gained to $2,192.25 a tonne from $2,175.
Cocoa futures dropped on the prospect of higher output. “The crops in West Africa are still thought to be big this year and have changed ideas of a shortage of production into ideas of a small surplus,” said Jack Scoville, analyst at broker Price Futures Group.
By Friday on LIFFE, London’s futures exchange, cocoa for delivery in May fell to £1,977 a tonne from £1,996 on Wednesday of the previous week. On the ICE Futures US exchange, cocoa for March dropped to $2,915 a tonne from $2,978.
Sugar prices dropped. By Friday on LIFFE, the price of a tonne of white sugar for delivery in March retreated to $380.60 from $391.50 on Wednesday of the previous week. On ICE Futures US, the price of unrefined sugar for March fell to 14.25 US cents a pound from 14.81 US cents.
Coffee prices retreated. By Friday on ICE Futures US, Arabica for delivery in March slid to 161.30 US cents a pound from 171.85 cents on Wednesday of the previous week. On LIFFE, Robusta for March declined to $1,871 a tonne from $1,883.