Oil Extends its Plunge, Falls Below $109

Reuters

Oil prices fell further on Friday, extending a 10 percent crash the previous day as fears about global economic recovery pushed investors to unwind commodities positions.

"The big drop yesterday has scared the bulls, so now only bears are left," said Thorbjoern Bak Jensen, an analyst at Global Risk Management.

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"The instinct is to liquidate. Even if you are a bull, you need to have deep pockets to ride this out," said one Singapore-based trader.

Brent crude shed just over $5 in the early hours of trade but recovered as the dollar dropped, trading $2.10 lower at $108.70 a barrel at 1143 GMT.

Thursday's drop was the second biggest on record, with Brent falling by more than $10, although at one point it was down $12, potentially the biggest one day drop ever.

After a fifth consecutive session of losses, more than $15 had been wiped off the market since last week's close.

U.S. crude futures were $2.35 lower at $97.46 a barrel, up from as low as $95.25 a barrel earlier in the session.

Goldman Sachs, which in April predicted this week's major correction in oil prices, said on Friday oil could surpass recent highs by 2012 due to supply tightness.

The Wall Street bank, seen as one of the most influential in commodities business, said it did not rule out a further limited decline in oil prices in the short term.

The fall on Thursday was part of a broad rout in commodities, driven by factors including a stronger dollar and weak economic data from Europe and the United States.

"We have now an accumulation of data indicating that prices at $110-plus are not sustainable and are impacting both oil demand and the economy," said Christophe Barret, an analyst at Credit Agricole.

JOBS DATA

The market's focus is on U.S. jobs data due out at 1230 GMT.

U.S. employers probably took on fewer workers in April as high energy prices sapped consumer confidence and led to doubts about the strength of the economic recovery, according to a Reuters survey of economists.

"With Asian funds having liquidated some of their positions, I think we will now see prices stabilizing, and even if U.S. jobs data is poor this afternoon, I don't think it will turn out as horrible as yesterday," said a trader with a major bank.

The scale of Thursday's fall left many analysts scrambling for an explanation in the absence of any single factor that appeared to have triggered the sell-off.

"There is no way that daily economic data has the power to cut $10 out of oil in one go," said The JBC Energy Research Center, adding "the most important single reason for yesterday's sell-off simply appears to be that a sell-off was due."

Traders also said the slide did not appear to have been caused by any obvious change in the fundamental outlook.

"It seems it's all been driven down since Osama (bin Laden) got shot, but I don't see that as particularly bearish myself. I don't see what difference it makes, to be honest," said a trader at an oil major.

Unrest across Arab nations had helped spur investors to pile into oil since the start of the year, driving Brent to a 2-1/2 year high of $127 last month.

"The fear premium is reducing as the memory effect cuts in and people are used to the Middle Eastern situation... Investors think oil has finished its run and are looking for performance elsewhere," said another trader at an oil major.