Crude oil falls below $50 a barrel

Oil prices have fallen below $50 a barrel amid fears of a global recession and expectations that demand will fall significantly.

Brent crude sank to $48.45 in London, below $50 for the first time since March 2005 after more gloomy forecasts for the economy. Light sweet crude fell to $49.91 on the New York Mercantile Exchange, a third of its value reached in mid-July when a barrel was worth $147.27.

Members of the oil cartel Opec are holding an informal meeting to discuss cutting oil production to stop prices falling further.

Opec president Chakib Khelil has signalled that the organisation may announce production cuts at its official December conference.

Toby Hassall, an analyst at Commodity Warrants Australia, said: "It's going to take a pretty big supply-side response from Opec at their next meeting to provide some support."

The sudden plunge in inflation has raised concerns of possible deflation next year, worsening fears over the economic downturn.

Mr Hassall said: "People are saying this slowdown could be the worst since the Great Depression. The stock markets are representing investor pessimism regarding the economic outlook and what we have in store over the next year."

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