Crude oil futures trim losses


US crude oil futures trimmed losses midday on Wednesday but worries over an economic slowdown in the US added to the previous day's anxieties spawned by plunging stocks in China, giving the market a bearish tone.

As traders took a second look at the latest government petroleum inventory data showing larger-than-expected fuel drawdowns last week, gasoline futures climbed to positive territory and heating oil futures pared losses.

At 1:15 pm EST (0315 AEDT) on the New York Mercantile Exchange, April crude was down 26 cents, or 0.4 per cent, at $US61.20 a barrel, after trading as low as $US60.30 in open outcry.

In overnight electronic trade, it fell as low as $US59.92, spooked by a fall in the US stock markets arising from plunging Chinese stocks, which raised fears an economic downturn in China may cut oil demand.

"The market has been looking a little toppy and there's a lot of resistance around $62 here, so there has been some nervousness, along with the volatility, in other markets," said Scott Meyers, senior analyst at Pioneer Futures in New York.

In London, ICE April Brent crude also pared losses, trading 7 cents off at $61.29, after earlier trading between $60.24 and $61.52.


Nervous investors jumped in and out of the gold market on Wednesday as early bargain hunting gave way to renewed selling with financial markets trying to regain their poise.


Spot gold traded in a wide $19 range, hitting the high for the day early at $679 as the sharp overnight drop attracted buyers in Asia and then Europe.

But further jitters set in later in the day, hacking about $7 off prices in minutes before the price steadied again. It was quoted at $669.60/670.30 an ounce by 2:48 p.m. EST (0648 AEDT), up from Tuesday's late quote in New York by $661.00/662.00.

Most-active gold for April delivery on the COMEX division of the New York Mercantile Exchange settled down $14.70, or 2.1 per cent, at $672.50 an ounce, traded in a range between $664.00 and $680.50.

"It has all the signs of a market that is very jittery," said Peter Hillyard, head of precious metal sales at ANZ Investment Bank.

"This is a nervous reaction to yesterday's move."

Silver followed gold to trade lower. It dropped to $14.14/14.19 an ounce, down from $14.24/14.34 late in New York on Tuesday.