NEW YORK (Reuters) - Oil prices fell on Friday in choppy trading as Spain’s banking crisis, weak European economic data and diminished hopes for monetary stimulus reinforced concerns about petroleum demand.
Crude futures flirted with their sixth weekly loss as the euro dropped 1 percent after Thursday’s three-notch downgrade to Spain’s credit rating and on the signs of economic weakness in Italy and Germany. The stronger dollar .DXY added pressure to dollar-denominated oil prices.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s Thursday appearance before a congressional committee offered little encouragement to investors hoping the Fed would launch a third round of bond buying, or quantitative easing.
“The sell-off was mainly due to market sentiment surrounding Bernanke’s speech,” said James Zhang, analyst at Standard Bank.
“(Investors) had too high expectations that Bernanke would announce a new round of quantitative easing.”
Global equities also felt pressure from the euro zone turmoil that is expected to cause Spain this weekend to request a financial package to prop up its troubled banks, though U.S. stocks managed gains.
U.S. President Barack Obama said on Friday that European leaders face an “urgent need to act” to resolve the region’s financial crisis as the threat of a renewed recession there spells dangers for an anemic U.S. recovery.
Brent July crude fell $1.30 to $98.63 a barrel by 1:05 p.m. EDT (1705 GMT), off its low of $97.19. A close above $98.43 is needed to avoid a sixth straight weekly loss, which would be the longest weekly losing streak since 2002.
Brent prices recovered and briefly scaled the $100 level during the week after slumping to a 16-month low of $95.63 on Monday
U.S. July crude was down $1.23 at $83.59, after falling as low as $82 and needing a close above last Friday’s $83.23 settlement to avoid a sixth consecutive weekly loss.
That would mark the longest string of weekly losses since 1998.
Brent’s premium to U.S. crude hovered little changed near $15 a barrel.
DISPUTE OVER IRAN‘S NUCLEAR PROGRAM
The ongoing dispute over Iran’s nuclear ambitions continued to keep investors cautious and remains a supportive factor to oil prices.
The U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency said on Friday it had made no progress in talks with Iran to finalize a deal on access to Iranian facilities, facilitating an investigation into suspected nuclear weapons research by Tehran.
The IAEA called the outcome “disappointing.”
Additional reporting by Julia Payne in London and Manash Goswani and Randy Fabi in Singapore and David Gregorio