LONDON – Oil prices fell toward $53, touching a fresh 22-month low on Wednesday, due to increasing signs of weakening demand as economic gloom deepened.
U.S. light crude fell as low as $53.30 a barrel, the cheapest price since January 2007. It was trading 69 cents lower at $53.70 by 0926 GMT.
London's Brent crude fell $1.23 to as low as $50.61.
Oil has slid by about one-third from its record highs above $147, struck in July.
"With no end in sight for the global economic turmoil, traders continue to focus on the lack of demand heading into 2009," said Jonathan Kornafel, Asia director of U.S.-based options trader Hudson Capital Energy.
"It is becoming quite evident that demand may actually drop from 2008 to 2009."
European and Asian shares fell as Japan's No.3 bank joined larger rivals seeking to bolster its capital in the face of the worst financial crisis in 80 years. Markets fretted over the stricken U.S. car industry.
European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet said the deep crisis was the first time since World War Two that the finances of the industrial world have been at stake.
The oil market was also closely watching U.S. weekly oil data due out at 1535 GMT on Wednesday as well as any moves from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) at their meeting next week.
Analysts in a Reuters poll expected the U.S. oil data would show an increase of 800,000 barrels of crude stocks, and a 400,000 barrel rise in gasoline inventories. Distillate stocks, which include heating oil and diesel, were forecast to have risen 600,000 barrels.
The American Automobile Association (AAA) motor group said on Tuesday that U.S. travel for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday next week would decline for the first time since 2002.
OPEC, the source of one-third of the world's oil supplies, is very concerned about worsening world economic slowdown but is unlikely to take action on output at its meeting in Cairo on November 29, OPEC President Chakib Khelil said in remarks published on Wednesday.
"The Cairo meeting would be an internal debate, and I do not think we would take a decision, because we will not have all information, and I do not think there is any need for action before making sure that all members have applied the previous decisions," he was quoted in El Khabar newspaper as saying.