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Oil May Test $75 as Macro Fears Prompt Further 'Risk-Off' Selling: Survey

Oil prices will likely log their fifth week of losses on expectations U.S. data over the next few days confirms fears that the recovery has stalled.

Second-quarter GDP due Friday is likely to be lowered to a 1.1 percent annual pace from 1.3 percent. New home sales and durable goods orders complete the scheduled data releases this week. Sub-par numbers no doubt will dent confidence in global financial markets and commodities. Critically, Fed Chief Ben Bernanke’s Jackson Hole address on Friday will be closely scrutinized for hints of any new initiatives though it’s unlikely he will signal any new measures to support the ailing recovery.

“Every bounce right now will be seen as a selling opportunity,” said Linda Rafield, Senior Oil Analyst at Platts. “Sentiment remains overwhelmingly bearish. I would not be surprised to see another test of the $75/b level Nymex crude . You need a sign that there is exhaustion selling before jumping back onto the long side and we haven’t seen that yet.”

A CNBC poll of analysts and traders showed 11 out of 12 respondents expect oil prices to fall while only one — Phil Flynn, vice president of research at PFGBest in Chicago — believes prices will rise this week, led higher by inventory declines.

Oil trading was volatile last week, reaching a high of $89 on Wednesday, after data showed a larger-than-expected drawdown in gasoline stockpiles. “If the stocks hold the lows, oil should recover,” Flynn said.

For the week, New York Mercantile Exchange front-month crude futures for September delivery closed at $82.26 a barrel, down $3.12, or 3.65 percent, down for a fourth straight week.

Dhiren Sarin, Chief Technical Strategist at Barclays Capital, said the oil market’s tight correlation with equities means a break below 1,100 on the S&P 500 “would almost certainly induce much lower oil prices. Until then, preferred bias is that we look for a down and up move, week ending marginally lower as volatility reigns supreme.”

Sean Brodrick, Weiss Research Natural Resources Analyst, added now that $84 a barrel support has broken, look for a test of $71 and potentially $64.50. Meanwhile, Daryl Guppy, Director of Guppytraders.com expects a test of $78 this week.

As we go to press, oil markets are moving lower on expectations that the Libyan conflict is fast-approaching an endgame as rebels swept into the heart of Tripoli, the capital of the OPEC member, triggering a more than $2 drop on Brent crude to around $106 a barrel.

Libya pumped around 1.6 million barrels per day (bpd), nearly 2 percent of global supply, before the war cut output. Most of Libya's high-quality crude flowed to European refiners, and tightening supply after Libyan exports stopped drove Brent toward a two-year high of $127.02 in April.

“From the current landscape, the only issue I can see on the horizon for any sign of a bullish tone for crude will be geo-political escalation in Syria and ultimately Iran,” noted Peter McGuire, CEO of FX Global Capital.

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