Oil prices fell to a six-month low on Thursday, driven by investor concerns about slowing energy demand in the United States and China at a time when U.S. production is near record highs.
Brent crude futures were down 25 cents at $74.05 a barrel, while US West Texas Intermediate crude futures were down four cents at $69.34, with both crudes hitting their lowest levels since late June.
John Evans, an analyst at PVM Oil, said: “Demand from the biggest global oil importer (China) is under pressure on prices, especially with the continuation of record production by the largest producer, the US.”
U.S. production is at an all-time high of more than 13 million barrels per day, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration data.
The Energy Information Administration said U.S. gasoline inventories rose 5.4 million barrels last week to 223.6 million barrels, more than five times the expected increase of one million barrels.
Concerns about the Chinese economy also limited oil price gains.
Chinese customs data showed crude oil imports fell 9 percent in November from a year ago due to higher inventory levels, weaker economic indicators and lower demand from independent refineries.
Although China’s total imports fell month-on-month, exports grew in November for the first time in six months, suggesting rising global trade flows could help the manufacturing sector.
Oil prices have fallen about ten percent since the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and the OPEC Plus group – which includes allies including Russia – announced a voluntary production cut of 2.2 million barrels per day in the first quarter of next year.
On Thursday, the biggest oil exporters, Saudi Arabia and Russia, called on all OPEC Plus members to join a deal to cut production for the benefit of the global economy.
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