Crude oil prices slipped a fraction in early trading on Thursday as shrinking Japanese machinery orders fuelled concerns that weak levels of investment could further erode already slow growth in Asia.

Japan's core machinery orders, a highly volatile data series regarded as an indicator of capital spending in the coming six to nine months, fell 3.6 percent in July, official data showed on Thursday.

That was much worse than a 3.7 percent increase expected by economists, and followed a 7.9 percent month-on-month decline in June.

In China, Asia's biggest economy, analysts already expect a further slowdown in economic growth, now at its lowest in a generation.

Benchmark Brent crude oil futures were trading at $47.52 per barrel at 0130 GMT, just below levels of their last settlement. U.S. crude futures were virtually unchanged at $44.16 a barrel.

Oil prices have fallen by over 50 percent since June 2014, when soaring global output began to clash with slowing economies in Asia, the main growth engine for commodities of the last years.

The weakening in Asia's economies and commodity demand is having far-reaching effects.

On Wednesday, Standard & Poor's downgraded Brazil to a junk-grade credit rating, just seven years after it first won an investment-grade rating. Brazil, one of the main commodity exporters to China and a member of the so-called BRICS emerging economies (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), was until recently seen as one of the main drivers of the global economy.