Oil markets moving on economic concerns

Statoil latest to reference challenging times in streamlining programs, leaves Alaska behind.
By Daniel J. Graeber Follow @dan_graeber Contact the Author   |  Nov. 17, 2015 at 9:36 AM
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NEW YORK, Nov. 17 (UPI) -- Crude oil prices shifted less on geopolitical concerns and more on market fundamentals, losing ground in Tuesday trading on growing concerns about Europe.

Oil prices edged higher in the wake of last week's attacks on Paris and Beirut, only to move lower at the start of the trading week on signs the Japanese economy edged back into recession. For Europe, Vitor Constancio, the vice president of the European Central Bank, said low inflation and slow growth were paramount concerns about the state of the regional economy.

"The [last recession] left a permanent economic loss with broad scars in our societies," he said.

In the United States, the cost of living is on the rise. The de facto stimulus created by lower energy and fuel prices has been offset by higher costs for rents and healthcare, which increased the most according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics. An index measuring the price of food rose 0.1 percent in October, after a 0.4 increase the previous month.

While inflation is advancing at a rate considered healthy by the U.S. Federal Reserve, labor statistics show median incomes are not improving.

The price for Brent crude oil was down about 0.2 percent in early trading to $44.46 per barrel, while West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark price for crude oil, was off about 0.3 percent to $41.60 per barrel.

Lower crude oil prices, meanwhile, have forced many companies to streamline their portfolios in an effort to survive the downturn. Norwegian energy company Statoil said Tuesday a lack of exploration success, coupled with a depressed market, meant it was time to abandon some of its maturing assets offshore Alaska.

"Given the current outlook we could not support continued efforts to mature these opportunities," Tim Dodson, executive vice president for exploration in Statoil, said in a statement, adding the company was closing its offices in Alaska.

After committing about $7 billion to the effort, Royal Dutch Shell said last month the said the lack of exploration success, high costs and a challenging regulatory regime meant it was time to abandon its program offshore Alaska.

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