Oil drops by over $2 per barrel, dogged by recession fears

Pump jacks operate at sunset in an oil field in Midland, Texas U.S. August 22, 2018.
Pump jacks operate at sunset in an oil field in Midland, Texas U.S. August 22, 2018. REUTERS/Nick Oxford/File Photo
  • Oil benchmarks settle over 2% lower but gain on weekly basis
  • Hawkish central banks spark recession woes
  • U.S. Fed indicated further interest rate hikes in 2023
  • European central banks raised rates earlier in the week
  • U.S. Energy Department begins repurchases for SPR

NEW YORK, Dec 16 (Reuters) - Oil fell by more than $2 per barrel on Friday, swept up in a wider rout in global equities on fears of a looming recession, after central banks across Europe and North America signalled they will continue to battle inflation aggressively.

Brent crude futures settled at $79.04 per barrel, down $2.17 or 2.4%, while West Texas Intermediate futures fell by $1.82, or 2.4%, to settle at $74.29 per barrel.

The U.S. Federal Reserve indicated it will raise interest rates further next year, even as the economy slips toward a possible recession. On Thursday, the Bank of England and the European Central Bank also raised interest rates to fight inflation.

"The talk around the campfire has suddenly become all about demand destruction in the face of a recession," said Robert Yawger, director of energy futures at Mizuho.

"The economic situation is less than stellar. Not today, but we are drifting in the direction of testing $70-per-barrel WTI again, and things could get very ugly from there."

Both benchmarks finished the week higher, aided by rallies in the first three days. Brent futures notched their biggest weekly gains since early October but those gains follow the worst weekly rout since August for the oil benchmark.

Heavy crude benchmarks have strengthened as the Canada-to-U.S. Keystone pipeline shutdown continues without a timetable for restart. While the outage is supportive for prices of heavier crude oil grades, it is "doing nothing" for lighter global benchmarks, said Matt Smith, lead oil analyst at Kpler.

Oil prices briefly erased some losses after officials said the U.S. Energy Department will repurchase 3 million barrels of domestic crude oil for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, the first purchase since this year's record 180 million-barrel release from the stockpile.

"It's not clear if this SPR repurchase is a one-off test or the start of a trend. If a one-off, it is a bit of a non-event," Smith said.

Reporting by Shariq Khan in New York Additional reporting by Noah Browning, Alex Lawler and Muyu Xu Editing by Tomasz Janowski and Matthew Lewis

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