Singapore: Brent crude fell below $112 a barrel on Monday, as fears of another US recession slowing fuel demand overshadowed supply concerns over a major shutdown of offshore oil production forced by Tropical Storm Lee.
US employment growth ground to a halt in August, reviving recession fears and piling pressure on both President Barack Obama and the Federal Reserve to provide more stimulus to aid the frail economy.
Front-month Brent fell 88 cents to $111.45 a barrel by 0624 GMT. Brent plunged almost $2 a barrel on Friday on the disappointing jobs data released in the US.
US crude was down a dollar to $85.45 a barrel, after settling $2.48 lower at $86.45. Friday’s losses wiped out part of US crude’s 4.1% gain in the week through Thursday.
“The macro situation is leading to fears of a double-dip recession. And there has been a recent trend of selling into strength when the market hits a soft patch,” said Chen Xin Yi, a commodities analyst at Barclays Capital in Singapore.
Asian stocks followed Wall Street lower on Monday, after the US Labor Department said employers added no net new jobs last month and July’s total was revised lower.
Compounding fears of a recession in the United States, Europe faces a string of political and legal tests this week that could hurt efforts to resolve its sovereign debt.
However, worsening economic woes may also raise the odds of more quantitative easing (QE) by the U.S. Federal Reserve. That could cheapen borrowing, weaken the dollar, and encourage investment in commodities as an asset class.
“This is likely to bring further calls for quantitative easing, despite the Fed’s apparent aversion,” said CMC Markets market strategist Michael McCarthy in a research note.
Brent oil will fall further to $109.01 per barrel, while US oil is also expected to fall more to $84.20 per barrel, according to Reuters market analyst Wang Tao.
Providing some support for prices was oil companies’ shutdown of more than half the crude production in the US Gulf of Mexico due to Tropical Storm Lee, which is hindering efforts to restaff and restart oil and gas platforms in the basin.
Lee reached Louisiana’s coast early Sunday, but was moving inland very slowly. Its 45 miles-per-hour (75 kmph) winds grounded helicopters on standby for oil and gas companies that would have otherwise ferried workers out to do post-storm assessments and restaff facilities.
“Reports that about 60% of crude refinery capacity was halted while Tropical Storm Lee hit the coast could lead to further declines in crude stockpiles in the latest government inventory report,” ANZ Bank said in a research note.
Another storm, Hurricane Katia, intensified over the open Atlantic on Sunday, bulking up to a powerful Category 2 storm, the US National Hurricane Center said.
The Miami-based hurricane center said it was still too soon to gauge the potential threat to land or to the US East Coast with any certainty.
But most computer models showed the storm veering on a northeast track out to sea after moving safely west of the mid-Atlantic island of Bermuda later this week.
The European Union imposed a ban on purchases of Syrian oil on Saturday and warned of further steps unless President Bashar al-Assad’s government ended its five-month crackdown on dissent.
In Libya, forces loyal to Moammar Gaddhafi refused on Sunday to give up one of their last strongholds without a fight, raising the prospect of an assault on the town of Bani Walid.
The EU has lifted sanctions on Libyan ports and oil firms, but few expect the country’s normal oil production -- around 1.6 million bpd -- to be restored soon, after a civil war halted its oil sector this year.