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The U.S. oil price sank into a bear market on Wednesday, falling more than 20% below its April peak, as the global-growth worries gripping financial markets were compounded by fears of a supply glut.

U.S. crude futures closed down 3.4% at $51.68 a barrel, dropping below the $53.04 level needed to push oil into another bear market after government data showed a surge in domestic stockpiles. The declines highlight investors’ fears that trade tensions will further undermine economic expansion around the world.

Investors track oil prices to gauge both supply and demand in energy markets as well as momentum in the world economy. Because crude is critical to the transportation and shipping industries, expectations for global growth often swing prices.

Oil’s swift fall comes just weeks after prices crested above $66 a barrel on April 23, when economic data were generally mixed and many expected a U.S.-China trade deal to spur growth later in the year. Since then, escalating tariffs have also sent stocks around the world sliding along with bond yields, with analysts worrying that further protectionism will make longer-term economic damage inevitable.
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