Oil prices fell slightly in the third week of July, as Hurricane Emily caused less damage than feared and OPEC downgraded its 2005 demand growth forecast. Spot Brent was trading at $57.04 a barrel on 20 July, compared with $59.04 a barrel a week earlier.

Emily forced the shut-in of 3 million barrels a day (b/d) of production from Mexico. The wind’s impact was less serious than that of its predecessor, Dennis, and little damage was done to oil facilities. But the succession of hurricanes in the region is likely to continue to move prices over the next couple of months. ‘The basket [price of OPEC crudes] continued to move higher in the first weeks of July as an abrupt and active start to the hurricane season disrupted oil operations in the Gulf of Mexico and compounded fears of a shortfall in crude and product supplies,’ says OPEC’s latest monthly report.

The study also revised downwards predictions of demand growth is 2005, following closely a similar reassessment by the International Energy Agency. OPEC blamed the 150,000-b/d change on a slowdown in activity and figures for the first half of the year showing weaker than expected demand, particularly from China. ‘Global demand growth for 2005 is now projected to rise by 1.62 million b/d or 2 per cent year on year to total 83.66 million b/d,’ the group said.