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Oil prices tumble as worries rise about economy

August 12, 2010 | 11:29 am

More signs of weakness in the global economy are pulling oil prices down for the sixth time in seven trading sessions, as U.S. crude and gasoline supplies remain ample relative to demand.

Near-term crude futures in New York were down $2.10, or 2.7%, to $75.92 a barrel at about 11 a.m. PDT, a five-week low.

Oil has slid 8% from its recent high of $82.55 a barrel on Aug. 3.

U.S. gasoline inventories rose by 409,000 barrels last week, the seventh straight weekly increase, the U.S. Department of Energy said on Wednesday.

That brought total inventories to 223.4 million barrels, far above the normal level for this time of year.

Gasoline inventories usually peak early in the year and decline with the summer driving season. But this year the normal large draw-down of supplies hasn’t happened.

Last week’s gasoline inventory total was off less than 4% from the 2010 peak of 232.1 million barrels, reached in February.

“The U.S. inventory report was bearish, showing that there wasn’t much of a summer driving season again,”  Victor Shum, a senior principal at consultants Purvin & Gertz Inc. in Singapore, told Bloomberg News.

Crude prices fell as low as $68 a barrel in late May amid fears of a European economic meltdown. As those worries ebbed oil rebounded, although the latest run-up fell short of the 2010 high price of $86.84 a barrel on April 6 -- when the global economy still looked like it had significant momentum.

-- Tom Petruno

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