Oil falls below $78 a barrel after concerns of slowdown in China

21 January 2010

US statistics reveal a rise in crude stocks

Crude oil prices fell under $78 a barrel in the US on 21 January, despite a report that showed greater than expected growth in China’s gross domestic product in the fourth quarter of 2009.

The US’ benchmark West Texas Intermediate contract for March was trading at about $77.90 a barrel on 21 January, down from more than $78.00 a barrel the day before. The contract was down $2 a barrel from the same time a week before.

In Europe, the benchmark Brent contract for March was trading at $76.40 a barrel, also down $2 from a week earlier when it was trading at $78.40 a barrel.

Prices fell on 20 January after the US’ Energy Information Administration reported that stocks of crude oil rose by 6 million barrels to 337 million barrels during the week ended 8 January.

Analysts had expected to see values rebound on 21 January after the Chinese National Bureau of Statistics released data showing its economy had experienced strong growth between October and December 2009, rising by 10.7 per cent from the third quarter.

Overall, the country’s GDP was 33.5 trillion yuan ($4.9 trillion) in 2009, marking an 8.7 per cent rise from the year before.

Prices continued to fall largely because of fears that China’s economy, which was seen as underpinning global growth in 2009, may not post such large gains in 2010 as the country winds down its 4 trillion yuan stimulus programme, according to one London-based oil analyst.

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