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CORRECTED-UPDATE 10-Oil sinks in rapid afternoon selloff, recovers slightly
September 17, 2012 / 5:03 AM / 5 years ago

CORRECTED-UPDATE 10-Oil sinks in rapid afternoon selloff, recovers slightly

(Corrects day in first paragraph)

* Brent crashes $5 at lowest point, recovers some losses

* U.S. crude also down, refined products drop

* White House has no announcement on SPR

By David Sheppard and Robert Gibbons

NEW YORK, Sept 17 (Reuters) - Oil fell nearly $3 on Monday, recovering slightly from a high-volume, rapid selloff that sent Brent crude crashing through technical support as markets sought an explanation for the plunge.

Brent crude, which had settled at $116.66 a barrel on Friday in its seventh straight session of gains, sank from $115.20 at 1:52 p.m. EDT (1752 GMT) to $111.60 three minutes later as trading volumes - which had been muted by the Rosh Hashanah holiday - shot up.

Volumes began to retreat after that, but picked up at 2:10 p.m. EDT when Brent put in a new low of $111.50.

U.S. crude dropped from $98.65 a barrel to below $95 during the period.

“I’ve been doing this for 14 years and that’s the fastest move I’ve ever seen,” said John Gretzinger, energy risk manager at INTL-FCStone in Kansas City.

“I think it was too fast to be anything but HFT (high-frequency trading) or other algos. We just don’t know right now, but that’s my gut feeling.”

Thirteen thousand U.S. crude lots and 10,000 Brent lots traded in one minute during the drop, up from 131 and 152 lots respectively in the minute prior to the first waves of selling.

IntercontinentalExchange Inc, home of the Brent crude oil contract in London, declined to comment. CME Group , where U.S. crude primarily trades, said it was unaware of any technical issue that may have contributed to the selling on the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX).

Scott O‘Malia, a commissioner at the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, said the regulator was “looking into” the trades behind the price plunge, and was in contact with the two exchanges.

Brent November crude closed down $2.87 at $113.79 a barrel, having traded from $117.02 to $111.50.

U.S. October crude, set to expire on Thursday, fell $2.38 to settle at $96.62 a barrel.

Traders said large oil-consuming customers had used the selloff as a chance to establish new hedges, helping prices recover.

WHITE HOUSE: NO SPR ANNOUNCEMENT

The market has also been watching for any move to release crude oil from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which government officials have said was an option to ease the pain of high oil prices on consumers.

The White House said after the price crash that the possibility of releasing crude from the reserve remained “on the table”, but it had no further announcement.

“I haven’t seen any major producer selling or other structures in the market that would cause such a huge spike lower,” said one Wall Street oil trader, who asked not to be identified.

“And the complex seems devoid of any concrete news that would cause a selloff of such magnitude.” (Additional reporting by Matthew Robinson in New York; Christopher Johnson in London and Luke Pachymuthu in Singapore; Editing by Marguerita Choy, Bob Burgdorfer and Dale Hudson) (robert.gibbons@thomsonreuters.com; +1 646 223 6059; Reuters Messaging: robert.gibbons.reuters.com@reuters.net)

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