NEW YORK: US oil prices today dropped below USD 50 a barrel for the first time since 2009 on a rocky day in global financial markets.
Near 1630 GMT, US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for delivery in February briefly dipped to USD 49.95 a barrel, before rallying somewhat to USD 50.20 a barrel.
The breach of the USD 50 level came as the Dow stood down more than 200 points and European equity markets lost more than two percent on concerns about weakness in the eurozone.
Oil has dropped about 50 per cent since June on worries about weak demand and a decision by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting countries not to cut output in response to lower prices.
"People are thinking about promises from OPEC, mostly Saudi Arabia, that they'll continue to produce at very high levels," said Bart Melek, head of commodity strategy at TD Securities.
"On the demand side of the equation, what we're getting is basically a lack of demand growth... as Europe is potentially in crisis."
The euro fell to a nine-year low against the dollar on worries that a victory in Greece by the far-left Syriza party in the January 25 election will result in the country's
departure from the eurozone.
A long rally in the greenback, which gained 11 percent last year against a basket of major rival currencies, has weighed on the dollar-priced oil market by making crude more expensive for buyers using weaker currencies. (AFP)