Oil markets dipped on Tuesday as China’s economic growth for 2014 undershot a government target and hit its weakest annual expansion in 24 years, adding to worries in energy markets already suffering from slowing demand and oversupply.

The world’s second-largest economy grew 7.4 per cent last year, China’s National Bureau of Statistics said, less than the target of 7.5 per cent. Growth in the fourth quarter held at its weakest in nearly six years, although coming in slightly better than expected at 7.3 per cent.

Brent crude was trading at $48.80 per barrel at 0403 GMT, down just four cents since their last settlement, while US crude was trading down $1.24 at $47.45 a barrel.

Oil demand

China’s GDP figures brought about mixed sentiment as slower growth indicated a negative outlook for oil demand in the short-term, said Daniel Ang, investment analyst at PhillipCapital in Singapore. However, he added that industrial production seemed better, showing a potential improvement in the long-run.

“Moving forward, EU and Germany economic sentiment survey, which is due to be released later (on Tuesday), may have a greater impact on oil prices,’’ he said.

Germany’s leading ZEW economic sentiment survey is scheduled to be published at 1000 GMT.

Shortly after China’s economic data, the International Monetary Fund lowered its forecast for global economic growth in 2015 and called for governments and central banks to pursue accommodative monetary policies and structural reforms to support growth.

Brent, WTI’s contangos

Recent price falls have steepened the price difference between oil for immediate delivery and for barrels for supply at a later stage, known as a contango.

“Producers globally are struggling to find buyers for their crude, which is reflected in the contangos in the Brent and WTI futures curves," Barclays said in a note.

Brent's contango between deliveries in March this year and a year later is currently around $10 per barrel.

“Refiners will run any crude that is economically and technically possible to make a margin, while margins are attractive (although product stocks are piling up),’’ Barclays said. Additional crude is going into storage to be sold at higher prices in the future, the bank added.

Credit rating agency Moody’s said on Tuesday that the low oil prices could negatively affect Southeast Asian exploration and production companies.