March 13 (UPI) -- Concerns about the buildup in oil supplies and a report on a modest decline in some of the world's leading economies sent oil prices lower early Monday.
Crude oil prices were hammered last week by reports of steady gains in the North American energy market. U.S. shale oil in particular has been more resilient to lower crude oil prices than expected and that has added to lingering concerns about an oversupplied market. Those same concerns were in part to blame for a drop in crude oil prices early last year below $30 per barrel.
An effort steered by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to balance the market through production cuts is having mixed success. The agreement, implemented in January, left crude oil prices near $55 per barrel for most of the year, but improved the market situation enough so companies idled by last year's downturn could return to work.
Leonardo Maugeri, a senior fellow with the Geopolitics of Energy Project at Harvard University, said in a recent note that most major producers not party to the OPEC-led effort were gaining ground.
"OPEC and non-OPEC cuts are not enough to re-absorb the world's excess supply," he said.
The price for Brent crude oil was down 0.6 percent about a half hour before the start of trading in New York to $51.06 per barrel. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark price for oil, continued its drift further below the psychological threshold of $50 per barrel to lose 0.58 percent from Friday's close to $48.21 per barrel.
The supply-side strains follow a report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development on growth in real gross domestic product in the G20 area. The OECD reported growth of 0.7 percent during the fourth quarter, down slightly from the 0.8 percent recorded in the previous quarter.
North American growth "slowed sharply," the OECD reported, with the United States, the world's leading economy, slowing from 1.1 percent to 0.7 percent. Federal U.S. estimates were higher for the fourth quarter than the preliminary report from the OECD, though the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis in February reported the rate of growth last year was slower than for 2015.
Elsewhere, the OECD said Europe was putting the last recession further back in its rearview mirror. Members of the European Union reported slow, but steady, growth from 0.4 percent to 0.5 percent during the fourth quarter.