The Philadelphia Energy Solutions oil refinery. Picture: REUTERS
The Philadelphia Energy Solutions oil refinery. Picture: REUTERS

London — Oil prices fell 4% on Tuesday after reports of swelling inventories and forecasts of record US and Russian output combined with a sharp sell-off in stock markets as the outlook for global growth deteriorated.

US crude oil dropped $2.04, or 4.1%, to a low of $47.84, its weakest since September 2017, before recovering to around $48.55 by 11.40am GMT. North Sea Brent crude lost $2.41, or 4%, to $57.20, a 14-month low. It last traded around $58.21, down $1.40. Both crude oil benchmarks have shed more than 30% since early October due to swelling global inventories.

World stock markets tumbled on Tuesday as fears about a slowing global economy gripped investors, just as the US Federal Reserve looked set this week to deliver its fourth interest-rate hike of the year.

Germany’s Ifo economic institute said its business climate index fell for the fourth month in a row to its lowest in over two years, adding to the worries about global growth.

Japan’s Nikkei lost 1.8% after US stocks dropped to their lowest in more than a year.

“A large part of the move is due to a broader market sell-off, with both US and Asian equity markets coming under pressure,” said commodities strategist Warren Patterson at Dutch bank ING in Amsterdam. “Specifically for the oil market, there are no clear signs yet of the market tightening.” 

Oil cartel Opec and other oil producers agreed this month to curb production by 1.2-million barrels per day (bpd), equivalent to more than 1% of global demand, in an attempt to drain tanks and boost prices. But the cuts won‘t happen until next month and, meanwhile, production has been at or near record highs in the US, Russia and Saudi Arabia, undermining spot prices.

Russian oil output hit a record 11.42-million bpd this month, an industry source familiar with the data told Reuters.

Oil production from seven major US shale basins is, by the year-end, expected to climb to more than 8-million bpd for the first time, the US Energy Information Administration(EIA)  said on Monday.

Inventories at the US storage hub of Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery point for the oil futures contract, rose more than 1-million barrels from December 11 to 14, traders said, citing data from market intelligence firm Genscape.

The US has surpassed Russia and Saudi Arabia as the world’s biggest oil producer, with total crude output climbing to a record 11.7-million bpd. With prices falling, unprofitable shale producers will eventually stop operating and cut supply, but that could take some time and, meanwhile, inventories keep growing.

“Rising US shale production levels along with a deceleration in global economic growth have threatened to offset Opec Plus’s efforts,” said Benjamin Lu Jiaxuan, at Singapore-based brokerage Phillip Futures.

With Koustav Samanta

Reuters