Oil prices drop to nine-month low on recession fears

Brent’s crash involved prices falling below $85 a barrel

Crude is on its way to a substantial quarterly slump, analysts say, as central banks raise interest rates aggressively to fight inflation. AP
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Oil prices touched a nine-month low on Monday as the US dollar strengthened and amid concerns of the impact of a potential recession on global demand.

The dollar lost some of its strength earlier in the day, helping both benchmarks recouping the intraday losses in the afternoon, before they fell again in the evening.

Brent, the benchmark for two thirds of the world's oil, was trading 1.88 per cent lower at $84.53 a barrel at 8.55pm UAE time. West Texas Intermediate, the gauge that tracks US crude, was down 1.92 per cent at $77.23 a barrel.

Oil fell sharply on Friday, hitting an eight-month low as concerns about a possible recession continued to trouble investors amid a strong dollar and monetary tightening by central banks globally to rein in inflation.

“US crude oil plunged below $80 per barrel on the back of rising recession worries as the European continent seems to be going into a coma before winter,” said Ipek Ozkardeskaya, senior analyst at Swissquote Bank.

Brent’s slide in early trade on Monday involved prices falling below $85 a barrel. The benchmark hit the lowest intraday level since January. It fell by almost 6 per cent last week in a fourth straight weekly drop, the longest losing run this year.

Crude is on its way to a substantial quarterly slump, analysts say, as leading central banks, including the US Federal Reserve, raise interest rates aggressively to fight inflation. This is hurting the outlook for energy demand and sapping investors’ appetite for risk.

“Markets had already been battered by a week full of hawkish central bank activity, highlighted by the 75 basis points hike from the Federal Reserve, but the week ended with intense volatility that seemed to be sparked by the release of a budget from the new Truss government in the UK,” Emirates NBD said on Monday.

Last Wednesday, the Fed raised its key interest rate by 75 bps, its third consecutive three quarters of a percentage point increase. This hinted at further increases to tame surging inflation. The Bank of England also raised its base interest rate by 0.5 percentage points to 2.25 per cent on Thursday, vowing to “respond forcefully, as necessary” to soaring inflation.

The Fed’s tightening has helped to drive the US dollar to a record, making commodities priced in the currency more expensive for overseas buyers.

“Oil demand will be at risk in a pending global recession, though the scale of decline is unlikely to be anywhere similar to what markets endured in 2020,” Emirates NBD said. “Nevertheless, sentiment is moving sharply and is more negative at the moment, so a further downside may be in store for oil in the near term.”

Market is also waiting to see what the Opec+ group of oil producers, led by Saudi Arabia and Russia, will do when they meet on October 5. The super group agreed cut output modestly at their previous meeting earlier this month.

The slump in prices may prompt crude oil exporter group Opec and its allies to consider intervening to stem the slide. However, analysts believe the current conditions make such market interventions unlikely and ineffective.

“Of course, Opec can do nothing about the cheaper oil, as what’s driving the market south is the worry of a bad recession looming,” Ms Ozkardeskaya said.

The threat of a looming recession is weighing heavily on both oil demand outlook and price. The global economy is expected to slow down this year because of higher inflation, the continuing conflict in Ukraine, and Covid-19 pandemic-related restrictions in China.

In July, the International Monetary Fund lowered its growth forecast for the global economy to 3.2 per cent this year, from its previous projection of 3.6 per cent in April.

The World Bank has also slashed its 2022 growth forecast for the global economy — for the second time this year — to 2.9 per cent from 3.2 per cent. The Institute of International Finance lowered its estimate to 2.3 per cent.

Updated: September 26, 2022, 5:17 PM