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Oil under pressure as World Bank cuts growth forecast

An offshore oil platform in Huntington Beach, California. Photo: Lucy Nicholson/ReutersAn offshore oil platform in Huntington Beach, California. Photo: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

Oil prices pared early losses yesterday but remained under pressure after the World Bank cut its economic growth forecast, doing little to end a rout that saw prices touch their lowest in nearly six years in the previous session.

Oil and other commodities came under strain after the weaker outlook from the Washington-based financial institution reinforced worries about a gloomy economic outlook at a time when oil markets are plagued by oversupply.

“We have quite bearish oil supply fundamentals, while there is still a slowdown in global oil demand growth,” said Myrto Sokou, senior research analyst at Sucden Financial. “We are all of us just waiting to see where the bottom is.”

February Brent crude inched 12 cents higher to $46.71 a barrel by 1152 GMT, while West Texas Intermediate crude for February fell 6 cents to $45.83.

Oil prices that have fallen by about 60 per cent since June are wreaking havoc on economies that depend on commodities, with Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov calling yesterday for a 10 per cent spending cut on everything but defence.

At the same time, Europe is on shaky ground despite the European Central Bank’s bond-buying stimulus plan.

“The global economy is running on a single engine... the American one,” the World Bank’s chief economist, Kaushik Basu, said.

Analysts said prices would remain under pressure from oversupply, prompting cuts to price forecasts for 2015 and 2016.

Oil had tumbled nearly five per cent on Tuesday before closing down 1.8 per cent, with global benchmark Brent briefly trading at par with US prices for the first time in three months as some traders moved to take advantage of ample US storage space.

American stocks could be approaching 80 per cent of capacity by the spring, according to US-based PIRA Energy Group.

Commercial crude stockpiles in the US rose 3.9 million barrels last week, the industry group American Petroleum Institute (API) said.

Outside the US, some of the world’s biggest oil traders have booked supertankers to store at least 25 million barrels at sea.

“Opec is not going to come to the rescue of the market,” said Harry Tchilinguirian, global head of commodity markets strategy at BNP Paribas.

“The onus is on floating storage.”

Producer club Opec has shown no sign of changing strategy since it decided late last year to maintain output despite slowing Asian and European economic growth.

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