Oil prices fell in Asian trade today in line with a sell-off in regional equities, analysts said, largely due to political concerns in Spain and Italy.

New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in March, dropped 14 cents to $96.03 a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for March shed 21 cents to $115.39.

“Oil is sliding in parallel with equities markets here in Asia. We’re seeing a more bearish market,” said Victor Shum, Managing Director at energy consultancy IHS Purvin & Gertz in Singapore.

Corruption scandal

Stock markets, which have enjoyed several weeks of healthy gains owing to rising confidence in the global economy, slumped today after Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy came under pressure to step down as he becomes engulfed in a corruption scandal.

The news sent the Spanish cost of borrowing surging, reviving worries about Madrid’s ability to access the debt market to keep functioning.

Austerity drive

And former Italy premier Silvio Berlusconi vowed to throw a spanner in the works of a government austerity drive, saying that he would refund the money Italians have had to pay for an unpopular property tax if his coalition, headed by his protege Angelino Alfano, wins a poll this month.

Eyes will be on China later this week as Beijing releases key trade and inflation data, which will provide further clues as to the state of the world’s number two economy and biggest energy user.

(This article was published on February 5, 2013)
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