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Oil takes it on the chin with heavy losses

Markets largely shrugging off Middle East tensions that caused Monday's price spike.
By Daniel J. Graeber Follow @dan_graeber Contact the Author   |   Jan. 6, 2016 at 10:33 AM
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NEW YORK, Jan. 6 (UPI) -- Crude oil prices suffered heavy losses in early Wednesday trading as macroeconomic concerns continued to trump worries over Middle East tensions.

Crude oil prices soared Monday in the wake of the Saudi execution of a prominent Shiite cleric along with dozens of other suspected insurgents. Iran lashed out at Riyadh, though many of Saudi Arabia's allies in the region severed or downgraded ties with the Islamic republic after the Saudi embassy there was stormed.

Lingering concerns about the health of the global economy reined in oil prices by late Monday trading and the trend has been negative since China enacted emergency response measures to briefly halt trading on the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index after a major sell-off.

Lin Yixiang, the deputy director of the Securities Association of China, was quoted by the official Xinhua News Agency as saying stock markets were undergoing a form of "surgery."

"After a storm comes a calm," he said. "We can expect a smoother journey for the Chinese capital market with improving market mechanisms."

Markets nevertheless reacted with pessimism. Beijing at least since twin stock market crashes in summer 2015 has enacted economic reform measures and pumped capital into the markets to arrest the slow decline.

Brent crude oil was in a steep decline to start trading Wednesday in New York, diving 4.6 percent in a free fall to open at $34.72 per barrel, the first time it moved below $35 in more than a decade. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark price for crude oil, moved down 3.7 percent to start the day at $34.64 per barrel.

Analysis from consultant group Wood Mackenzie finds market fundamentals are driving crude oil prices more than tensions in the Middle East. Once supply and demand start to balance out in late 2016, a situation like the row between Iran and Saudi Arabia could have a greater impact on crude oil prices, its report found.

Data from the American Petroleum Institute show a draw from U.S. crude oil inventories, according to the Wall Street Journal, though official data to be released late Wednesday from the U.S. Energy Information Administration is expected to show markets still favor the supply side.

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