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By Samuel R. Avro on Jan 27, 2009 with no responses

Crude Oil Prices Slide On Bleak Consumer Confidence Data

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Crude oil futures took its largest hit in nearly 3 weeks after data revealed that the consumer confidence in the U.S. dropped to a record-low in January.

The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index dipped in January to 37.7, beating out the previous low of 38.6 set in December. Consumer spending accounts for two-thirds of the U.S. economy.

Crude oil for March delivery fell $4.15, or 9.1 percent, to settle at $41.58 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange on Tuesday.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration is due to release the nation’s weekly crude inventory data on Wednesday. The data is expected to show a rise in stockpiles – a Bloomberg survey of analysts suggests a rise of 2.8 million barrels, while a Reuters survey is forecasting a rise of 2.9 million barrels. A poll by the research firm Platts is predicting as much as a 3.4 million barrel increase. The data is due out at 10:30 a.m. in Washington.

In other news, a cyclone off the coast of Australia has shut down nearly half of the country’s oil output. The area off Australia’s west coast is home to some of their largest oil and gas extraction projects. Some production is slated to resume Wednesday morning as the cyclone moves on.

In response to weakening demand in the wake of the global economic slowdown, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) had pledged to cut January crude production by 2.2 million barrels per day. The oil cartel produces roughly 40 percent of the world’s oil.

The next scheduled OPEC meeting, where they may deepen their supply cuts, is slated for March 15. Some oil analysts believe that the current production cuts are not sufficient to stem the drop in crude oil prices.

“Unless OPEC production cuts in January were substantially greater than what we have assumed, it is still too early to be calling an end to this current bear market,” Goldman Sachs said in a research note.