Oil prices fell on Thursday to their lowest levels in six months, driven by investor concerns about slowing energy demand in the United States and China at a time when US production remains near record high levels.
Brent crude futures fell 25 cents to $74.05 a barrel, while US West Texas Intermediate crude futures fell four cents to $69.34, with both crude oils recording their lowest levels since late June.
John Evans, an analyst at PVM Oil, said: “With the decline in demand from the largest global oil importer (China), pressure remains on prices, especially with the continuation of record production by the largest producer, the United States.”
US Energy Information Administration data showed that US production remained near record high levels of more than 13 million barrels per day.
The Energy Information Administration said that US gasoline inventories rose by 5.4 million barrels last week to 223.6 million barrels, which is more than five times the expected increase of one million barrels.
Concerns about the Chinese economy also limited oil price gains.
Chinese customs data showed that crude oil imports in November fell by 9 percent from a year ago, as high inventory levels, weak economic indicators and slowing demand from independent refineries weakened demand.
While China’s total imports fell month-on-month, exports grew in November for the first time in six months, suggesting that rising global trade flows may help the manufacturing sector.
Oil prices have fallen by about ten percent since the OPEC Plus group – which includes the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and allies including Russia – announced a voluntary production cut of 2.2 million barrels per day in the first quarter of next year.
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