May 7, 2012 / 12:50 AM / 8 years ago

UPDATE 5-Oil falls below $113; global demand weighs

* European elections prompt re-think of euro risks

* Riskier assets fall broadly after euro zone elections

* Brent touches $110.34, lowest in more than three months

* U.S. crude plunges to $95.34, weakest since Dec. 20 (Recasts, adds quotes, previously SINGAPORE)

By Zaida Espana

LONDON, May 7 (Reuters) - Oil dropped to four-month lows below $113 a barrel on Monday, on worries that election results in Europe could thwart the single currency’s drive to contain its debt crisis, and after weak U.S. jobs data prompted concern about oil demand growth.

Oil prices, which have fallen for four straight sessions, suffered a sell-off on Friday after data showing U.S. nonfarm hiring slowed for a second month in a row in April, fuelling fears of falling demand in the world’s top oil consumer.

This was compounded by the outcome of elections in France and Greece that raised concerns over their ability to implement further austerity measures seen as key to tackle the region’s debt crisis.

“Optimists who recently believed that most of the risks concerning the euro were already ‘priced in’ are now discovering that this is by no means the case,” said Commerzbank analysts Carsten Fritsch and Eugen Weinberg in a note.

“The results of the elections in Greece and France are evidence that voters are not willing to pay for the severe programmes of austerity measures.

“We believe that this will weigh on the euro, market sentiment and commodity prices for some time to come.”

By 0927 GMT, Brent crude futures lost 37 cents to $112.81 a barrel, after touching a low of $110.34, its weakest since late January. The benchmark contract fell 2.5 percent on Friday.

U.S. crude futures were down 60 cents at $97.89 a barrel, after dropping to as low as $95.34, its weakest since Dec. 20, 2011. U.S. oil fell by around 4 percent on Friday, its biggest drop since December, to break below $100 for the first time since February.

“In France, the victory of Socialist candidate Hollande will be closely watched by markets in particular, following his announcements of a turning away from austerity policies throughout his election campaign,” JBC Energy consultants said in a note.

“Expectations on the outcome of the elections might have already contributed to the downwards slide in oil prices late last week, as concerns about the eurozone’s willingness to carry out full-hearted austerity measures lingered”.

Brent is on track to notch up a four-day loss of around 6 percent, its biggest since August last year, while U.S. crude is headed for a decline of over 8 percent in the same period, the largest such drop in over six months.

French voters ousted Nicolas Sarkozy, a key architect of bailouts for indebted countries and an advocate of austerity measures, in Sunday’s presidential vote.

In Greece, voters also turned on ruling parties in an election on Sunday, putting the country’s future in the euro zone at risk.

The election outcome in the euro zone saw some investors turning risk-averse. The U.S. dollar gained around 0.4 percent against a basket of currencies on Monday, weighing on dollar-denominated assets like oil and gold.


Higher supply from the 12-member Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which is pumping 32.3 million barrels per day (bpd) - 2.3 million bpd more than OPEC’s target of 30 million bpd, also weighed on oil prices.

The extra OPEC oil has offset a decline in exports from Iran, which is facing stiffening Western sanctions over its disputed nuclear energy programme.

Brent is now lower than it was in early November, when a U.N. report on Iran’s nuclear program stirred new action against Tehran.

Iran and major powers resumed talks in mid-April in Istanbul after a gap of more than a year, during which time the United States and European Union stepped up efforts to curb Tehran’s nuclear ambitions through new sanctions and an oil embargo which come into effect over the summer. They are to meet again on May 23 in Baghdad.

“We maintain that the path of least resistance for oil is down, especially as bearish catalysts continue to emerge,” said analysts at Morgan Stanley in a report on Monday. “Lacklustre macroeconomic conditions, easing global tensions and bearish fundamentals have already started to weigh on oil prices.” (Reporting by Zaida Espana in London, Francis Kan in Singapore; Additonal reporting by Meeyoung Cho in Seoul; Editing by Himani Sarkar and Alison Birrane)

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