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Waning American dream weighs on Shell and BP

April 2, 2009

Market report

That America loves cars is one of the cultural and economic “truths” that underpins the behemoth that is the United States, but it is a love affair that appears to be going through a rocky patch. Carmakers can’t sell their vehicles, Washington is refusing to indulge them with unlimited, no-questions-asked extra funding and now a lake of unsold oil stored in refineries and ports across the country has swollen to its highest level in 16 years, according to figures unveiled by the US Energy Department. Even the weekly level of petrol in storage surged by 2.8 million barrels, defying expectations of a fall.

The news sent the oil price, which had been rising after Opec’s production cuts, back below $50 a barrel. It also weighed on the oil majors. BP ended yesterday down 10½p at 461p and Shell lost 29p to close at £15.02. BP took a double blow as Goldman Sachs downgraded from “neutral” to “sell”, saying that this year would be its last of production growth. Goldman said that as its fields run dry, the amount of the black stuff that BP pumps would fall after 2010 by roughly 2 per cent a year.

However, Goldman, which wrongly predicted that the oil price would reach $150 a barrel by the end of last year, raised its forecast for the price for the first half of this year and kept a “buy at a reduced price” on Shell. The shares were also hit by an investor placing a 10.5 million holding of Amsterdam-listed stock.

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