EUROPEAN PRICE SKID GATHERING MOMENTUM

EUROPEAN PRICE SKID GATHERING MOMENTUM

Oil prices slumped again Wednesday in Europe with North Sea Brent for March delivery skidding 40 cents a barrel to $13.85, its lowest level since December 1986.

April shipments of Brent were also off 40 cents a barrel to $14.40 and Dubai, the most widely traded Middle East crude, was quoted at $13.40 a barrel.The price collapse is gathering pace amid rumors of discounting in the Japanese market, OPEC's apparent unwillingness to trim its excess output despite a growing glut of crude and uncertainty about Saudi Arabia's resolve to defend the cartel's reference price of $18 a barrel.

The approach of spring also has dashed hopes of a rise in demand which already had been depressed by unseasonably warm winter weather in Western Europe.

Oil traders are wary of buying cargoes because they fear prices will continue to weaken before stabilizing at a new floor.

However, prices for forward months were firmer.