Oil prices resumed their downward trend on Friday pulled lower by weaker global stock markets and a sharp contraction in China's manufacturing activity, with the U.S. benchmark on track for its longest weekly losing streak since 1986.
Activity in China's factory sector shrank at its fastest pace in almost 6-1/2 years in August as domestic and export demand dwindled, adding to worries about lower demand for crude in the world's second biggest oil consumer.
Asian stocks also fell on Friday, following Wall Street down as fears took hold of a China-led deceleration in global growth. [MKTS/GLOB]
Key oil benchmarks were trading near 6-1/2 year lows, with the U.S benchmark headed for its eighth straight weekly decline, the longest weekly losing streak since 1986.
In late 1985, oil prices slumped to $10 from around $30 over five months as OPEC raised output to regain market share following an increase in non-OPEC production.
BP (BP.L) CEO Bob Dudley said in late-July, when oil prices were some $8 a barrel higher than now, that "it does feel like 1986".
U.S. crude for October delivery CLc1 was 46 cents lower at $40.86 a barrel at 0656 GMT. The September contract CLU5, which expired on Thursday, ended 34 cents higher. The U.S. benchmark hit a 6-1/2 year low of $40.21 a barrel on Thursday.
Brent LCOc1 was on track for its seventh weekly decline in the past eight, trading 41 cents lower at $46.21 a barrel, after settling 54 cents lower on Thursday.
The dollar .DXY continued retreating on shrinking expectations of an U.S. interest rate hike in September, providing some support for oil prices.
U.S. crude inventories continued to rise last week, as imports rose and shale production fell slower than anticipated, despite falling prices. [EIA/S]
"The only silver lining we are seeing coming from the United States is that refining rates remain high and that crude production continues to fall," Singapore-based Philip Futures said in a note to clients.
Despite the rout in oil prices, some mutual funds keep plowing money into oil exploration and production companies in the United States in a bet that production will retreat sharply over the next 12 months, setting the stage for a rebound towards $65-70 per barrel.
A glut of U.S. oil is about to repeat itself north of the border, with traders scrambling to secure more storage space in western Canada as crude stockpiles surge to record highs.
Spot prices of Western Canada Select (WCS), a marker for heavy, diluted bitumen from Alberta's oil sands sank to a 12-year low near $20 per barrel.