Oil price drops below $127 a barrel

Oil dropped below $127 a barrel Monday in Asia on worries that prices are cutting into demand and as a probe into futures trading by a U.S. regulator continued to weigh on the market, reported CNN.

Jitters about record high fuel and energy prices -- particularly in the U.S., which has just started its summer driving season -- have helped to pull oil off the $135.09 a barrel trading record hit May 22. Data from the U.S. Energy Department and Federal Highway Administration and several surveys in recent days suggest American consumers are driving less.

Additional selling pressure came with last week's announcement from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission about an investigation into possible price manipulation in oil futures markets. The CFTC also announced new rules designed to increase transparency of U.S. and international energy futures markets.

"There are more concerns on the high pricing we have seen, that it will have a negative impact on demand, and the fact that the CFTC is expanding its investigation of manipulation in the oil markets," said Victor Shum, an energy analyst with Purvin & Gertz in Singapore.

Late afternoon in Singapore, light, sweet crude for July delivery was down 80 cents at $126.55 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Friday, the contract settled at $127.35 a barrel, up 73 cents.

At one point Friday, July crude futures dipped below $125 a barrel before rebounding.

"The seesaw we've seen in the last few days is an indication that the oil market may have peaked," Shum said.

"Having said that ... the reality is that even though we have crude off the peak of $135 there are still supply-side issues going forward," he said. "The hurricane season is certainly one factor to contend with."

Tropical Storm Arthur formed Saturday afternoon -- one day before the official start of the 2008 Atlantic Hurricane season -- and though it caused the temporary closure of two of Mexico's oil export ports, according to Dow Jones Newswires, it wasn't expected to cause any severe disruptions to oil shipments. On Sunday, the storm weakened to a tropical depression.

While investors may have shrugged off the storm, there are other worries about supplies.

On a trip to the Mideast over the weekend, U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said there is "no quick fix" to high oil prices because it is an issue of supply and demand. He was on the trip to deliver a message to officials of Saudi Arabia and other oil-producing nations that soaring oil prices are putting a burden on the global economy.

Global demand remains strong while "production capacity has not seen new development," Paulson said Sunday in Qatar. His trip was designed to urge Mideast producers to allow more outside investment to boost output.

The day before, though, the current president of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries again blamed the weak U.S. dollar, speculation and the subprime crisis for the spiraling price of oil.

Algerian Energy Minister Chakib Khelil said the cartel will make no new decision on production levels until its Sept. 9 meeting in Vienna. He said oil's record prices do not reflect markets conditions, an oft-repeated OPEC position.

In other Nymex trading, heating oil futures fell 0.2 cent to $3.6647 a gallon while gasoline prices 1.25 cents to $3.3357 a gallon. Natural gas futures rose 0.7 cent to $11.71 per 1,000 cubic feet.

July Brent crude futures fell 68 cents to $127.10 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

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