U.S. Crude Hits 2-Month Low

Oil prices fell sharply on Wednesday as disappointing economic data from China and Europe reinforced concerns about slowing growth and a weakening outlook for petroleum demand, even as supportive U.S. data strengthened the dollar.

U.S. November RBOB gasoline futures retreated a second straight session, helping pressure U.S. crude to a two-month low. Gasoline's session low of $2.7538 a gallon put front-month futures down more than 58 cents from where October futures settled and went off the board last Friday.

Concerns about China and Europe allowed investors to shrug off any supportive sentiment that might have accrued from the U.S. Energy Information Administration's (EIA) weekly inventory report. The EIA said U.S. crude stocks fell 482,000 barrels last week, against forecasts stockpiles would be up 1.5 million.

"The global economy is in a rut, and even with supportive EIA data crude is down," said Dan Flynn, an analyst at Price Futures Group in Chicago.

Brent November crude fell $3 to $108.57 a barrel by 2:09 p.m. EDT (1809 GMT), having fallen to $108.20, its lowest price since Sept. 20.

Brent's Tuesday settlement was below two technical levels closely watched by traders charting price movements - the 50-day moving average at $112.06 and the 200-day moving average at $112.09.

U.S. November crude was down $3.40 at $88.49 a barrel,slumping below its 100-day moving average of $89.99 and having dropped to $88.28, its lowest since prices fell to $87.23 on Aug. 3.

In addition to the slump in U.S. gasoline, which fell more than 6 cents, heating oil joined in the retreat, falling 5 cents.

U.S. gasoline stocks rose slightly, by 114,000 barrels, last week, the EIA's report said, while distillate inventories fell 3.69 million barrels, much more than expected.

Gasoline stocks were expected to be down 600,000 barrels, while total distillate supplies were estimated to be down only 400,000 barrels, a Reuters survey of analysts showed.

Ahead of Friday's closely watched September nonfarm payrolls report, separate reports showed U.S. private employers added more jobs than expected in September and activity in the vast services sector picked up.

The reports increased hopes that the U.S. economy might be on a more stable economic path and helped the dollar rise across the board, but a stronger U.S. currency can pressure dollar-denominated commodities like oil.

Copper slipped on Wednesday, ending four days of gains, also on pressure from the weak European and Chinese economic data.