Oil hits multi-month lows as downbeat mood persists

Oil prices fell to their lowest since the third quarter of 2017 on Friday, heading for losses of more than 11 percent in a week, as global oversupply kept buyers away from the market ahead of the long festive break.

Brent crude fell $1.56 to a low of $52.79 a barrel, its weakest since September 2017, before rallying to trade around $53.10, down 11.9 percent on the week, by 1055 GMT.

U.S. light crude oil was down 60 cents at $45.28, on course for a decline of 11.6 percent for the week.

Crude has lost ground along with major equity markets as investors fret about the strength of the global economy heading into next year. The prospect of a possible government shutdown in the United States, the world's biggest oil consumer, added to investors' worries.

Falls were exaggerated by thin trade and risk aversion ahead of Christmas and the New Year holidays, traders said.

"To say things are a bit negative (is) a significant understatement," said Stephen Innes, head of trading for Asia-Pacific at OANDA.

Since reaching multi-year highs at the beginning of October, both crude oil benchmarks have lost more than a third of their value in their steepest collapse for three years.

Driving the sell-off has been sustained oversupply as the United States has emerged as the world's biggest crude producer thanks to the success of its shale industry.

The United States now pumps 11.6 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude, putting it ahead of Saudi Arabia and Russia.

The big oil producers in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, dominated by Middle East Gulf states which mostly rely on energy exports, have agreed to reduce production to try to push up prices.

But those output cuts - a reduction with Russia and other non-OPEC producers of 1.2 million bpd - do not kick in until next month, and meanwhile global inventories are filling up fast.

"The bear fest continues," said Stephen Brennock, analyst at London brokerage PVM Oil.

"According to OPEC's own forecasts, global oil stocks will build by 500,000 bpd in the first half