Global oil prices tumbled to fresh 14-month lows Tuesday as investors dumped crude amid concerns over slowing growth in some of the world's biggest energy consumers and data showing U.S. crude production is likely to surge to new record highs into 2019.
The U.S. Energy Information Administrations said Monday that production from the country's seven biggest shale areas, including the Permian Basin, is likely to top a record 8 million barrels per day this year before rising to around 8.1 million in early 2019. That's likely to add to overall U.S. output, which hit a record 11.7 million barrels per day in the week ending December 7.
"As usual oil markets are all about the basics of supply and demand, so when excess amount crosses paths with a bearish global growth outlook, it provides an exceedingly bearish signal for oil prices which have only one place to go, and that's down," said Stephen Innes, head of Asia Pacific trading at Oanda. "With market struggling for direction oil prices were very prone to shift in risk aversion, but when global growth concerns trigger risk off it's hugely negatively impactful for oil prices."
Brent crude contracts for February delivery, the global benchmark, were marked $2.46 lower from their Monday close in New York and changing hands at $57.15 per barrel, the lowest since October 20, 2017 and some 35% from their October 2018 peak.
WTI contracts for January delivery, which are more tightly liked to U.S gas prices, were $2.65 lower at $47.23 per barrel, the lowest since September 2017 and down 38% from their recent October peak.
Oil is losing a relevant support level.December 18, 2018
U.S. gas prices fell more than 13% across the month of November, according to GasBuddy.com, helping drive a much-stronger-than-expected reading for core retail sales last month that fell in concert with record Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping.
However, the deepening decline in U.S. crude is likely to make predictions for fourth quarter GDP growth more difficult, argues Ian Shepherdson of Pantheon Economics, as the falling futures prices creates the appearance of rising crude import volumes (making net trade numbers look worse) while being partially offset by improvements in inventories.
"Variations in GDP growth from quarter-to-quarter, though, often are driven by the foreign trade and inventory components, which are much more volatile than the underlying economy," Shepherdson said. "We were expecting big swings in the fourth quarter even before the drop in oil prices."
The American Petroleum Institute will publish private data on U.S. crude supplies later today, with official data from the EIA set to follow Wednesday just after the Fed rate decision.