The oil price fell on Tuesday, with the US benchmark reaching its lowest level in more than a year, as investors’ attention remained focused on an important meeting of major oil producers early next month.
“The bulls are running for the barn and the bears are not in hibernation” said James Williams, energy economist at WTRG Economics.
Factors contributing to the sharp decline include the US oil stocks over the five-year average in October, and the decline in Iran’s oil exports was less than expected, Williams said. The market also experiences a seasonally weak demand decline, he said.
“However, if the price is anywhere near today’s price” Williams said, “I expect OPEC to make cuts…..The lower the price, the higher the probability of a cut.”
Against this backdrop, the West Texas Intermediate Crude Oil Market in the US declined: CLF9 fell $ 3.77, or 6.6%, to hit $ 53.43 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the lowest front-end contract Month since October 26, 2017, according to Dow Jones, settle market data.
January Brent UK Global Benchmark: The LCOF9 fell $ 4.26 or 6.4% to $ 62.53 a barrel, with prices the lowest since February.
The energy complex was also swept along in a series of “risk-free” jitters, which sank the global markets sharply.
“The broader financial market complex was roiled by weakness in tech stocks and the seemingly hard-to-bridge rift between the U.S. and China, at least as far as trade is concerned” the consulting firm JBC Energy said in a statement.
This increases concern about the global thirst for oil, while at the same time energy markets are trying to regulate oversupply. Groups, including OPEC, have lowered their growth prospects for oil demand this year and next.
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump said Tuesday that despite the tensions associated with the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the US is a “staunch partner” to the Saudis. The comments lessened the likelihood of disrupting the Saudi market.
Stewart Glickman, CFRA’s Energy Research Director said “The undercurrent to all this, in my view, is that Trump support is conditional on no production cuts…… I suspect if Saudi can marshal enough broad support across OPEC, cuts will occur anyway”.
Both WTI and Brent Benchmark oil prices fell into a bear market earlier this month, which was defined as a drop of at least 20%, after peaking at almost four years in early October.
Oil prices found support on Monday for news that the European Union is supporting a decision by the French government to punish Iranians with a bomb attack in France.
And on Tuesday, the Trump government approved an Iranian company, and three Russian companies had to reduce oil sales to Syria, according to a Bloomberg report.
However, it was Trump’s decision to grant exemptions to key buyers of Iranian crude after sanctions were imposed on the Islamic Republic in the US for fueling pressure on the oil market worldwide. Sanctions were expected to keep most Iranian oil off the market.
At the same time, leading producers in the US, Russia and Saudi Arabia are pumping crude oil to record levels, which means that global supply is clearly outstripping demand, a monthly update of the International Energy Agency said last week.
OPEC and its allies signaled earlier this month that they could make a joint production cut. Such a step would only take place a few months after the group’s decision to increase production after more than a year of production stoppage.
OPEC had a first agreement to cut production at the meeting next month, but it has not yet agreed on the amount, Reuters said, commenting on comments by OPEC Governor Ahmed al-Kaabi, to the newspaper Al Bayan.