Oil falls in Asia as traders eye Italian elections


Oil prices were down in Asia on Monday as dealers awaited the outcome of the Italian elections that could weaken the eurozone’s single currency, analysts said.

New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in April, dropped 11 cents to $93.02 a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for delivery in April shed 30 cents to $113.80.

“Italian elections end later today and are keeping traders cautious,” said a report from IG Markets Singapore.

An average of the most recent polls gave centre-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani 34 percent of the vote, three-time premier Silvio Berlusconi 30 percent, Beppe Grillo 17 percent and outgoing premier Mario Monti around 11 percent.

Bersani has said he will continue with the budget discipline enforced by Monti if he wins the elections, to the delight of financial markets.

But he will come under pressure to ease back on austerity and do more to promote growth and jobs as Italy endures its longest recession in 20 years and unemployment hits a record high of 11.2 percent.

A return to Italy’s bad old days of free-wheeling public finances could spell disaster for the eurozone beset by a debt crisis.

And in a show of rising social discontent, ten of thousands of Italians attended a mass rally on Friday by Grillo, a comedian turned activist whose grassroots Five Star Movement could receive a massive protest vote and become Italy’s third biggest political party after the elections.