5 Dec : Oil prices held steady near four-year lows on Friday but analysts said they were likely to fall even further as economic data signalled a global economic downturn may be deep and prolonged, analysts said.
New York’s main futures contract, light sweet crude for January delivery, fell 10 cents to USD 43.57 a barrel – off a low of 43.39 – after dropping USD 3.12 to 43.67 on the New York Mercantile Exchange on Thursday. That was the lowest price since January 2005.
Brent North Sea crude for January eased eight cents to USD 42.20 a barrel, slightly off its morning low of 42.13. The contract fell USD 3.16 to 42.28, also the lowest level since January 2005, yesterday in London.
It is "way, way premature" to think that the market has hit bottom, said David Moore, a commodities strategist with the Commonwealth Bank of Australia in Sydney.
"The focus is well and truly on the weakness in consumption, and that doesn’t seem likely to go away in the next 24 hours."
Oil prices have lost more than two-thirds of their value since striking record highs above USD 147 in July, pulled down by a widening global economic slowdown that weighs on demand, analysts say.
Moore said a US report on unemployment, due out later on Friday, could re-emphasise the focus on bad economic news and resultant lower demand for energy.
The key November non-farm payrolls and unemployment report is expected to show the loss of 325,000 jobs in the United States, the world’s largest economy and biggest energy consumer.