By Devika Krishna Kumar
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Oil prices fell about 1 percent on Friday as global supply increased and investors worried that fuel demand could slow, putting U.S. crude on track for the longest stretch of daily declines since 1984.
Benchmark Brent crude fell below $70 a barrel for the first time since early April, and was down about 20 percent since reaching four-year highs at the beginning of October.
Brent crude futures fell 59 cents to $70.06 a barrel, a 0.8 percent loss by 12:20 EST (1720 GMT). It was down about 3.7 percent for the week and more than 15 percent this quarter.
U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures were on track for the 10th straight day of declines, the longest such streak since July 1984, according to Refinitiv data.
WTI crude futures fell 63 cents to $60.04 a barrel, a 1 percent loss, after dropping under $60 a barrel to its lowest in eight months.
The U.S. crude contract had hit a low of $59.26, down $1.41 and off more than 20 percent since its peak in October. That put it in "bear market" territory, borrowing a definition used in stock markets.
"Market sentiment has shifted from the most bullish tone in years with many calling for $100 only weeks ago, to the weakest investor sentiment since the 2016 price trough."
Demand worries followed forecasts for slower economic growth in 2019, largely due to a U.S.-China trade war. On Friday, Chinese data showed producer inflation fell for the fourth straight month in October on cooling domestic demand and manufacturing activity. The report sent global stocks into a tailspin.
But other big producers have more than compensated for lost Iranian barrels. The United States, Russia and Saudi Arabia are pumping at or near record highs, producing more than 33 million barrels per day (bpd), a third of the world's oil.
China National Petroleum Corp said it was still taking oil from Iranian fields in which it has stakes.
Washington has said it wants to force Iranian oil exports down to zero, but Bernstein Energy now expects "Iranian exports will average 1.4 million to 1.5 million bpd" during the exemption period, about half the volume in mid-2018.
Inventories in Cushing, Oklahoma, the delivery point for U.S. crude futures, have risen for seven straight weeks.
"As OPEC exports continue to rise, inventories continue to build, which is putting downward pressure on oil prices," Bernstein said. "A slowdown in the global economy remains the key downside risk to oil."
Still, a return to oil production cuts by OPEC and its allies next year cannot be ruled out, two OPEC sources said this week. A ministerial committee of some OPEC members and allies meets on Sunday in Abu Dhabi.
(Reporting by Devika Krishna Kumar in New York, Christopher Johnson in London and Henning Gloystein in Singapore; Editing by Bernadette Baum)
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)