A man refuels a car in California. Oil prices slipped to a four-year low yesterday. Photo: AFP
Oil prices slumped to just above 46 dollars here on Tuesday, reaching the lowest point in almost four years, as global energy demand weakened amid a widespread economic slowdown.
On London's InterContinental Exchange (ICE), Brent North Sea crude for delivery in January hit 46.02 dollars -- the lowest point since February 18, 2005.
The contract later recovered slightly to stand at 46.60 dollars a barrel, down 1.37 dollars compared to the close on Monday, when Brent had lost a huge 5.52 dollars.
On Tuesday, light sweet crude for January fell to as low as 47.36 dollars on the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX). That was the lowest level since May 2005 and followed a dive of 5.15 dollars on Monday.
Later Tuesday, light sweet crude was down 1.30 dollars at 47.98 dollars a barrel.
"I think it's the same-old, same-old: consumption softening," said David Moore, a commodities strategist with the Commonwealth Bank of Australia.
"The data out of the US and other countries support the view that consumption has softened."
Oil prices had fallen sharply on Monday after Opec decided at a weekend meeting against cutting its production, preferring to wait until December before reducing crude exports.
The cartel's secretary general Abdalla Salem El-Badri said on Monday that Opec would decide on a "major" output cut next month if the oil market were deemed to be deteriorating.
The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, which pumps 40 percent of the world's crude, met in Cairo on Saturday to assess the state of the oil market but held off from making any decision on cutting production.
Instead, energy ministers decided that any output move would be made when they next meet in Oran, Algeria on December 17.