Oil prices continue slide

Brent, West Texas Intermediate off more than 1 percent in early trading.
By Daniel J. Graeber Follow @dan_graeber Contact the Author   |   Jan. 11, 2016 at 9:49 AM
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NEW YORK, Jan. 11 (UPI) -- A downbeat assessment of the Chinese economy added fuel to a fire that began last week, dragging crude oil prices lower in early Monday trading.

Crude oil markets suffered one of their worst opening weeks on the back of twin short circuits on China's benchmark Shanghai Composite Index, which lost more than 7 percent in two trading sessions last week.

China scrapped a circuit breaker mechanism last week after investors panicked as markets approached the threshold for triggering emergency shutdown measures. Without the safety net, the benchmark index lost 5.3 percent by the closing bell Monday.

There's been little positive pressure on crude oil prices apart from an escalation in tensions between historic rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia, both of which are members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. Most market analysts said it's market fundamentals, not geopolitical tensions, influencing crude oil prices.

Fitch Ratings said Chinese efforts to lower its interest rates have helped drive the value of its national currency lower.

"A country cannot simultaneously allow free capital flows and control its exchange rate and domestic interest rates" the ratings agency said Monday. "This is at the core of the policy dilemma China faces."

The price for Brent crude oil moved lower by about 1.7 percent to start trading Monday in New York at $32.98 per barrel. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark price for crude oil, fell 1.3 percent to start the day at $32.74 per barrel.

Moody's Investors Service in mid-December "sharply" lowered its assumptions for oil prices for 2016 as production far outweighed consumption levels. In late December, Goldman Sachs said crude oil prices may need to hit $20 per barrel before a balance between supply and demand returns.

Morgan Stanley joined the chorus this week, saying Brent could move toward the $20 range.

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