LONDON (AFP) – Oil prices fell in thin pre-holiday trade Wednesday, but analysts said losses were curbed by upbeat sentiment over a strong US economic growth report.
Brent North Sea crude for delivery in February shed 91 cents to stand at $60.78 a barrel nearing midday in London.
US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for February lost 83 cents to $56.09 per barrel compared with Monday’s closing value.
Crude futures had rallied Tuesday as strong US economic data sparked a round of buying in the beaten-down commodity.
Prices have held above the five-year lows forged last week on abundant supplies and poor demand.
“Oil has slipped a bit again this week but has managed to stabilise above the $60 per barrel mark in Brent crude,” said CMC Markets analyst Jasper Lawler.
The US Commerce Department said Tuesday the world’s largest economy grew at a spectacular five per cent in the third quarter, the best growth rate since 2003.
The figure beat the previous official estimate of 3.9 per cent and the 4.3 per cent projected by analysts, boosting hopes energy use in the world’s top consumer will rise.
However, oil prices have nevertheless slumped 50 per cent since June due to a glut of world supplies created by increased production and lacklustre global economic growth.
“Whilst oil can piggy-back on data like the impressive US GDP figures, its long term future nevertheless remains bleak,” said Spreadex analyst Connor Campbell.
The market was also hit this week after Saudi Arabia declared again that OPEC will not cut output.
OPEC will not cut oil production even if the price drops to $20 a barrel – and it is unfair to expect the cartel to reduce output if non-members do not, Saudi Arabia said.
“Whether it goes down to $20 a barrel, $40, $50, $60, it is irrelevant,” the kingdom’s Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said.
Saudi Arabia is the biggest producer in the 12-nation Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) cartel.
“Oil is finishing up on a weak note before Christmas, as the Saudi comments from earlier in the week continue to weigh on prices,” said IG analyst Chris Beauchamp.
“However the good (GDP) figures from the US yesterday have allowed markets to end on a good note.”
Naimi also defended a decision by OPEC last month to maintain a production ceiling of 30 million barrels per day.
The announcement sent global crude prices tumbling, worsening a price drop that has seen them halve since June.
Later on Wednesday, traders will digest the latest snapshot of US commercial oil inventories for the week ending December 19.