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Oil prices languish close to $60

By AFP

Oil prices languished on Monday close to 60 dollars a barrel, about 60 percent below record heights reached a year ago, as the global recession drags down demand for energy, analysts said.

In London trading, Brent North Sea crude for August delivery firmed 16 cents to 60.68 dollars a barrel.

New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in August eased five cents to 59.84 dollars.

In intraday trading on Friday, New York crude had plunged to 58.72 -- which was the lowest level since May 18.

"Crude oil is... near an eight-week low on speculation the global recession will sap demand for fuel and increase stockpiles," said BetOnMarkets analyst David Evans on Monday.

"Prices dropped as US consumer confidence fell and fuel stockpiles in the largest oil consumer rose for a fourth week," he added.

"Oil traders are hoping that the commodity has found some short term support around the 59.50-dollars-per-barrel mark."

Crude oil had closed below the psychological barrier of 60 dollars in New York on Friday as the market assessed weak demand and risks of deflation amid the steep global economic downturn.

Almost one year ago, prices had struck record peaks above 147 dollars a barrel -- but they have since collapsed in line with slumping energy demand.

On July 11, 2008, New York crude had rocketed to a record high point of 147.27 dollars and London Brent struck a historic peak of 147.50 on heightened concerns about supplies.

But over the past 12 months, prices have nosedived, striking 32 dollars in December before clawing back ground on hopes of a tentative global economic recovery.

Group of Eight (G8) leaders meeting in Italy last week agreed that 70-80 dollars was a fair price to pay for a barrel of oil, according to a spokeswoman for Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries -- which pumps 40 percent of world oil -- argues that its 12 member nations need at least 75 dollars a barrel to balance their books and maintain investment levels.

"Volatility, for all of its evils, has succeeded for the first time in generating a consensus from both sides that there is a 'fair' price for oil at around 75 dollars per barrel," said David Hufton, an analyst for energy trading group PVM Oil Associates.

"Without the run up to 147 dollars per barrel, consumer governments would never have conceded a price of 75 dollars as fair -- and the same can be said for producer governments until it ran down towards 30 dollars per barrel."

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