April 12, 2011 / 12:50 AM / 8 years ago

Oil slumps on growth worries

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Oil prices suffered their biggest two-day loss in 11 months and stocks dropped on Tuesday on concerns about the strength of global growth and as Goldman Sachs warned crude was set for a pullback.

The price of crude traded in New York slid more than 3 percent, bringing losses since Friday to 5.8 percent. Goldman Sachs predicted Brent prices would fall back to $105 in “coming months,” down from $120 on Tuesday, and the International Energy Agency said high prices could be eroding demand.

World stocks, as measured by the MSCI’s main world equity index .MIWD00000PUS, were down 1.3 percent, the index’s biggest one-day decline in four weeks.

Worries over global growth were heightened after Japan’s economic minister warned that damage caused by last month’s earthquake and tsunami could be worse than initially thought for the world’s third-largest economy.

Japan’s decision to put the severity of radiation leakage at its stricken Fukushima nuclear plant on a par with the worst nuclear disaster, at Chernobyl, also weighed on sentiment.

“The market is increasingly becoming concerned about the situation in Japan and that high oil prices and high commodity prices will eventually hurt economic growth,” said Mark Bronzo, money manager at Security Global Investors in Irvington, New York.

U.S. stocks ended lower after disappointing revenue figures from aluminum maker Alcoa Inc (AA.N), the Dow component that marked the start of the quarterly earnings season with its release after the market close on Monday. Energy stocks led losses on the benchmark S&P 500.

The S&P energy index .GSPE , the market’s top performer in the first quarter, shed 3 percent.

“The leadership has been for the longest time in those sectors that are highly related to global growth and commodity prices. So once the commodity space starts rolling over, then equities are poised to follow,” said Robert Van Batenburg, head of equity research at Louis Capital in New York.

The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI dropped 117.53 points, or 0.95 percent, to end at 12,263.58. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index .SPX dropped 10.30 points, or 0.78 percent, to 1,314.16. The Nasdaq Composite Index .IXIC dropped 26.72 points, or 0.96 percent, to 2,744.79.

The FTSEurofirst 300 index .FTEU3 of top European shares slipped 1.7 percent, with miners and energy firms among the heaviest losers. Emerging markets .MSCIEF, which count several resource exporters in their ranks, fell 1.9 percent.

Brent crude oil fell $3.06 to settle at $120.92 a barrel. The May Brent contract expires on Thursday. U.S. May crude fell $3.67 to settle at $106.25.

“Fear of demand destruction is killing this market. There is a feeling that the recent rally lifted oil prices to unsustainable levels,” said Phil Flynn, analyst at PFGBest Research in Chicago.

Spot gold fell from Monday’s record high while silver sagged a day after hitting a 31-year high.

The Reuters-Jefferies CRB index .CRB, a global commodities benchmark, fell about 2 percent in its sharpest one-day decline in a month as raw materials markets came under pressure from the sell-off in oil.

SAFE-HAVEN DEMAND

Safe-haven demand boosted Treasury prices. The benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note was up 23/32, with the yield at 3.498 percent. Thirty-year bonds rose more than a point in price, last yielding 4.579 percent.

The yen and Swiss franc rose sharply as jittery investors sold riskier trades funded by borrowing in the two low-yielding currencies.

“Carry trades are owned heavily and looked overextended, especially the yen crosses. These are the ones looking shaky,” said Tom Fitzpatrick, chief technical strategist at CitiFX in New York.

The yen firmed to a 1-1/2-week high versus the U.S. dollar, though gains are likely to be curbed by the Bank of Japan’s perceived determination to keep monetary policy loose to aid economic recovery.

The dollar fell 1.2 percent against the Swiss franc to 0.8957 francs. It earlier dropped to 0.89421, its lowest in more than three weeks.

The euro rose to a 15-month high against the dollar above $1.45, boosted by reported buying from China and news that China, the world’s second-largest economy, was willing to purchase more Spanish debt.

Dovish comments from key U.S. Federal Reserve officials weighed on dollar sentiment. Two of the Fed’s most powerful officials, Janet Yellen and William Dudley, said the U.S. central bank should stick to its super-easy monetary policy as inflation is not a threat and unemployment remains too high.

The U.S. dollar index .DXY, which tracks the greenback against a basket of major currencies, was down 0.3 percent at 74.835 after hitting 74.704, its lowest since December 2009.

Additional reporting by Robert Gibbons, Angela Moon and Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss in New York; Editing by Leslie Adler

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