U.S. oil prices fell as low as low as $81.21 a barrel Monday -- the weakest level since Oct. 6, 2011 -- as evidence of a slowdown in the Chinese economy last month added to fears of a sputtering global recovery.
Crude oil prices later recovered to $83.08 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, but were still down 15 cents so far from their previous closing price. In London, oil prices on the ICE Futures Europe Exchange were down $1.07 cents to $97.37 a barrel.
The biggest reason for another down day so far, analysts said, was China's non-manufacturing purchasing managers index, which fell last month and suggested another slowdown in economic activity, said Phil Flynn, senior market analyst for Price Futures Group Inc. in Chicago.
Flynn said that "oil could fall below $80 a barrel by the end of this week" if the commodities markets lose confidence in the ability of world leaders to deal with a number of problems, such as the weak banking sector and debt in Europe.