(From Reuters)

Oil fell briefly below $30 a barrel on Tuesday, extending a relentless selloff that has wiped almost 20 percent off prices this year amid deepening concerns about fragile Chinese demand and the absence of output restraint.

The day’s near 4 percent drop marks a seventh day of losses for oil. Traders have all but given up attempting to predict where the new-year rout will end, with momentum-driven dealing and overwhelmingly bearish sentiment engulfing the market. Some analysts warned of $20 a barrel; Standard Chartered said fund selling may not relent until it reaches $10.

By Tuesday, the crash had become almost self-fulfilling, with speculators too afraid to buy for fear of being burned by another false bottom.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude(WTI) CLc1 was down $1.19 at $30.22 per barrel as of 2:19 p.m. EST (1919 GMT), a 3.7 percent loss, after touching a low of $29.93, which was last seen in December 2003.

“The momentum is too strong to the bearish side, even if fundamentally nothing has changed,” said Dominick Chirichella, a senior partner at Energy Management Institute.

With prices now below break-even costs for many producers, particularly in the once-thriving U.S. shale patch, and the costly Canadian oil sands producers barely making $15 a barrel, an extended slump has caused financial pain to flare across the world, threatening corporate bankruptcies and fiscal strain.

Benchmark Brent crude LCOc1 had dropped 97 cents to $30.58 a barrel, for a 3.1 percent loss, after hitting a low of $30.34. Read more

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