Oil prices slumped on Monday, with New York crude striking five-month lows, as the dollar strengthened against the euro on mounting worries over Europe’s debt crisis, traders said.
New York’s main contract West Texas Intermediate crude for delivery in June was down $1.99 at $94.14 a barrel. Earlier Monday it hit $93.65 an ounce — the lowest point since mid-December.
Brent North Sea crude for June was down $1.87 at $110.39 a barrel in London midday deals having reached a near four-month low of $110.04 earlier on Monday.
Oil futures retreated as the euro tumbled to its lowest point against the dollar since January, as Greek politicians failed again to form a government over the weekend, again throwing into doubt the future of the eurozone.
The European single currency dived to $1.2861, the lowest point since January 23 and compared with $1.2917 late in New York on Friday.
A stronger US currency makes dollar-denominated oil more expensive for buyers using the euro, denting demand for crude.
“Due to the lack of US economic data today, currency movements could offer some further direction to the oil market which looks fairly vulnerable at the moment,” said Sucden brokers analyst Myrto Sokou.
Greece on Monday faced the prospect of fresh polls after political parties failed to narrow divisions over a painful EU-IMF bailout deal, with few expecting progress at talks to form a government.
Meetings hosted by President Carolos Papoulias resume at 1630 GMT as eurozone finance ministers gather in Brussels where officials insist Greece must stick to tough austerity measures in return for the debt rescue.
If Athens does not, and the debt accord lapses, it appears increasingly that eurozone leaders are prepared for Greece to leave the 17-nation bloc despite fears that that outcome could destabilise the whole euro project.
Oil market sentiment was also weighed down by a Saudi call for crude prices to fall further.
“We need to get prices at a level around $100. Now, it is still high,” Saudi oil minister Ali al-Naimi was quoted as saying on Sunday by Dow Jones Newswires.
He was referring directly to Brent crude, the most widely traded oil contract worldwide.
Speaking to reporters in Australia, al-Naimi added that global crude stocks were likely to increase ahead of an anticipated seasonal rebound in demand starting from July.
“It is very important to recognise that supply today is 1.3 million to 1.5 million barrels per day over demand, which is good. It is going into inventory and bringing inventory up — that should give comfort to consuming countries,” al-Naimi said.