Page last updated at 20:30 GMT, Monday, 17 March 2008

Oil prices in retreat from record

Wyoming oil well
A US recession could lower demand for oil

The price of oil has fallen sharply from a record high as turmoil in banking and financial markets triggered a sell-off.

US light sweet crude fell to $105.68 a barrel after earlier clearing a fresh high of $111.80 a barrel.

Investors fear the financial crisis that forced the sale of US banking giant Bear Stearns bodes ill for the world economy and demand for oil.

However gold, viewed as a safe-haven asset, hit a high of $1,033.9 an ounce.

Oil prices had been boosted by the falling dollar, which hit a record low against the euro and fell to a 12-year low against the yen.

But investors turned cautious on Monday amid widespread turmoil in financial markets and took profits on the recent rally in oil prices.

Oil prices have risen about 16% this year, while gold is up 23%.

"There is little question the market is overbought and could become even more vulnerable to selling due to the deteriorating economic conditions, as well," said Mike Fitzpatrick at MF Global.

Investing in gold is also seen as a way of protecting against the dollar's weakness.

Jitters

The dollar has been undermined by the credit crisis and the effect that is having on the US economy.

The near collapse of Bear Stearns last week raised fears that US banks were struggling to cope with the credit crisis.

"Oil clearly led the way down," said David Holmes, director of metals sales at Dresdner Kleinwort Investment Bank.

"The market is incredibly jittery because of the financial situation," he said.

Looking ahead, analysts say the Fed could cut overnight rates by up to 125 basis points by the end of its meeting on Tuesday.

"What is really important for this week is to see what the Fed is doing," said Michael Widmer, analyst at Lehman Brothers.

In the long run, oil demand might be reduced by a severe recession.


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