North Korean leader Kim Jong Il

Oil dropped for a fourth day in New York as the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il prompted investors to sell equities and commodities, while Europe was scheduled to discuss its latest step to control the debt crisis.

Futures fell as much as 0.9 percent as the official Korean Central News Agency said Kim had died at the age of 70. European Union finance ministers will hold a conference call today addressing a self-imposed deadline for drawing additional aid and creating new budget rules. Europe’s crude demand may drop 2.8 percent in the first quarter of 2012 from this year’s fourth quarter, the International Energy Agency forecast on Dec. 13.

“The near-term direction for the economy is downward, so it doesn’t surprise me that you see prices going down,” said Jeremy Friesen, a commodity strategist at Societe Generale SA in Hong Kong, who said Kim’s death was probably “net” bearish for the market. “There is still a lot of uncertainty.”

Crude for January delivery fell as much as 99 cents to $92.54 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract, which expires tomorrow, was at $92.88 as of 3:35 p.m. Singapore time. The Dec. 16 settlement of $93.53 was the lowest since Nov. 2. The more actively traded February future decreased 95 cents to $92.80. Prices are 1.4 percent higher this year after rising 15 percent in 2010.

Brent oil for February settlement on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange declined as much as 98 cents, or 1 percent, to $102.37 a barrel. The European benchmark contract was at a premium of $9.63 to New York-traded West Texas Intermediate grade for the same month. The front-month spread was a record $27.88 on Oct. 14.

Heart Attack

Kim, the second-generation North Korean dictator who defied global condemnation to build nuclear weapons while his people starved, died Dec. 17 of a heart attack, state media said today. A government statement called on North Koreans to “loyally follow” his son, Kim Jong Un. South Korea’s Kospi index fell the most in five weeks, the MSCI Asia Pacific Index slid 1.9 percent at 4:05 p.m. in Tokyo. The dollar strengthened against most counterparts, and gold extended its worst weekly loss since September.

Oil in New York has technical support around $92.80 a barrel, the lower of two leading-span lines that define an “ichimoku cloud” on the weekly technical chart, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The cloud is an area where buy orders tend to be clustered. Futures halted last week’s decline near that level.

‘Demand Picture’

Euro-area finance ministers will hold a conference call at 3:30 p.m. Brussels time to discuss 200 billion euros ($260 billion) in additional funding through the International Monetary Fund and the mechanics of a so-called fiscal compact that was negotiated at a Dec. 9 summit, according to two people familiar with the planning.

“The demand picture is starting to look weak,” said Jonathan Barratt, a managing director at Commodity Broking Services Pty in Sydney, who predicts New York oil may drop to $90 a barrel. “You are seeing continued news that reinforces a slowdown and that’s weighing on the price of crude.”

Europe’s crude demand may fall 2.8 percent in the first quarter of 2012 from this year’s fourth quarter, the International Energy Agency said in its monthly report Dec. 13. The 27 EU member states accounted for 16 percent of global oil consumption in last year, based on BP Plc’s Statistical Review of World Energy.

OPEC’s 30 million-barrel-a-day oil production limit may boost prices next year, according to Goldman Sachs Group Inc. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries is pumping 700,000 barrels a day above the target and will have to cut output as supplies increase from Iraq and Libya, David Greely, the bank’s head of energy research in New York, said in a report yesterday. The 12-member group set a new output ceiling for the first time in three years at its Dec. 14 meeting in Vienna.


Chinese Consumption

China consumed 9.06 million barrels a day of oil in 2010, making it the second-largest user of crude after the U.S., at 19.1 million barrels a day, according to WorldWatch statistics review.

Oil’s loss also followed a stronger dollar and lower U.S. stocks, Lynch said. A stronger U.S. currency reduces oil’s appeal as an alternate investment.

The Dollar Index, which tracks the U.S. currency against six major peers including the euro and the yen, rose 1.2 percent. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index fell 2.1 percent.

U.S. oil inventories probably dropped for the first time in three weeks in the seven days ended Dec. 9 as refineries boosted capacity, a Bloomberg News survey showed.

Supplies shrank by 2.5 million barrels, or 0.7 percent, to 333.6 million last week, according to the median estimate of 10 analysts polled before a weekly Energy Department report on Dec. 14.

Iran’s Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi said some OPEC members should reduce output to accommodate the return of shipments from Libya and increased Iraqi exports, according to a report yesterday by the state-run Mehr news agency. The report came as oil ministers from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries began arriving in Vienna before a Dec. 14 meeting.

Libya pumped 500,000 barrels a day in November, from a low of 45,000 barrels in the midst of the rebellion against former leader Muammar Qaddafi, according to Bloomberg estimates.


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