LONDON - Oil prices tumbled this week, hampered by oversupplies and weak global demand despite a pick-up for the US economy, traders said.

On Friday official data showed the US unemployment rate fell to 5.6 per cent in December, the lowest level in six and a half years, as the country capped its best year for job creation since 1999.

OIL: Crude hit a new 5.5-year low point.

Brent North Sea crude dropped to $48.90 a barrel Friday and the New York price hit $46.85 on Wednesday—the lowest levels since late April 2009.

“The move below $50 shows how momentum is everything here,” CMC Markets analyst Michael Hewson told AFP.

“With no sign that OPEC will do anything about overproduction, it seems likely that we could well see further declines towards $40 in the coming weeks—particularly given that demand shows no signs of picking up.”

A decision last month by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, which supplies about a third of the world’s oil, to leave output unchanged despite the price plunge has rattled the market in recent weeks. “There is still no indication that US shale production will be reduced or that there will be a sudden surge in global demand for oil,” said Shailaja Nair at energy information provider Platts.

Rising US and Canadian oil production has contributed to ample global supplies at a time of slowing growth in China, the world’s largest energy consumer, and other emerging-market economies, a recession in Japan and a near-stall in the 19-nation eurozone. Oil has lost more than half its value since June, while analysts say lower prices will be a boost to oil-importing countries worldwide. Rajiv Biswas, Asia Pacific chief economist at international consultancy IHS, said oil importing industrial nations in Asia will likely be the biggest winners from cheaper crude. “The slump in world oil prices represents an estimated transfer of around $1.5 trillion from global oil producing countries to oil importing countries,” he said.

By Friday on London’s Intercontinental Exchange, Brent North Sea crude for delivery in February tumbled to $49.67 a barrel from $57.02 the previous week.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange, West Texas Intermediate or light sweet crude for February slumped to $47.96 a barrel from $53.49.

- Gold gains -

PRECIOUS METALS: Gold won support from its status as an economic haven amid concerns for the eurozone.

Falling industrial output and exports suggest Germany’s current economic weakness is not over yet, while concerns persist regarding Greece’s future role in the single currency bloc.

Germany has made preparations for the possibility of Greece leaving the eurozone, including any run on Greek banks, a German newspaper reported Wednesday.

Bild newspaper said the chancellery in Berlin had run through scenarios in the event of a victory in Greece’s January 25 snap election by the radical leftist Syriza party. The party has pledged to reverse reforms imposed by Greece’s international creditors and renegotiate its bailout deal.

By Friday on the London Bullion Market, the price of gold rose to $1,217.75 an ounce from $1,172 a week earlier.

Silver climbed to $16.24 an ounce from $15.71. On the London Platinum and Palladium Market, platinum grew to $1,225 an ounce from $1,193. Palladium edged up to $795 an ounce from $791.

BASE METALS: Base or industrial metals mostly slid, hit by a stronger dollar and more poorly-received Chinese data. Copper was additionally hit by high stockpiles, analysts said. Sliding oil prices weighed on aluminium, with higher production of the metal forecast owing to the cheaper cost of crude. “As the most energy intensive metal to produce, aluminium is particularly sensitive to the fall in oil and coal prices,” said Unicredit in a note to clients.

Chinese inflation meanwhile rebounded marginally in December, the government said Friday, but economists warned of deflationary threats and called for more monetary stimulus to boost slowing growth in the world’s second-largest economy.  By Friday on the London Metal Exchange, copper for delivery in three months dropped to $6,112 a tonne from $6,242.25 the previous week. Three-month aluminium slid to $1,820.50 a tonne from $1,846. Three-month lead retreated to $1,839.75 a tonne from $1,860.25. Three-month tin rallied to $19,630 a tonne from $19,275. Three-month nickel grew to $15,508 a tonne from $14,971. - Cocoa rebounds -

COCOA: Cocoa futures rebounded from the previous week’s losses, winning support from news of sliding output in key producer Ghana. “News from Ghana sparked the price rally,” said Commerzbank analysts.

“In the first 12 weeks of the current crop year 2014/15, this worldwide second-largest cocoa-producing country sold considerably less cocoa than in the corresponding period last year.

“Sales of 430,800 tons were reported ... equivalent to a 23 per cent year-on-year decline.” By Friday on LIFFE, London’s futures exchange, cocoa for delivery in March rose to £2,050 a tonne from £1,977 a week earlier. On the ICE Futures US exchange, cocoa for March climbed to $2,993 a tonne from $2,915.

SUGAR: Sugar prices advanced as output was hampered by unfavourable growing conditions in major producer Brazil.

“Agriculture commodities lead the table, with sugar and coffee being supported by dryness in some areas of Brazil,” said Saxobank analyst Ole Hansen.

By Friday on LIFFE, the price of a tonne of white sugar for delivery in March rose to $390.10 from $380.60 a week earlier.

On ICE Futures US, the price of unrefined sugar for March fell to 14.25 US cents a pound from 14.81 US cents.

COFFEE: Coffee prices also won ground on Brazil production concerns.

“Futures markets were higher on fund-led buying, tied to expectations for drier than normal conditions in coffee areas of Brazil for the next couple of weeks,” added Price Futures Group analyst Jack Scoville. “It will not be completely dry, but rains for the next week or two should average below normal.”  By Friday on ICE Futures US, Arabica for delivery in March rallied to 181.50 US cents a pound from 161.30 cents a week earlier. On LIFFE, Robusta for March jumped to $1,992 a tonne from $1,871.