U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude ended the session down $3.64, or 7.3 percent, at $46.24. Losses accelerated ahead of WTI’s settlement, with the contract closing at its lowest level since Aug. 30, 2017. U.S. crude continued to plunge after the settle, falling nearly 8 percent below $46 a barrel.
Brent crude, the international benchmark for oil prices, fell $3.35, or 5.6 percent, to $56.26, a 14-month closing low. It was last trading down $3.54, or 6 percent, at $56.07.
Oil prices are now trading in a zone that could trigger a plunge towards U.S. crude’s 2017 low near $42 a barrel, according to John Kilduff, founding partner at energy hedge fund Again Capital.
“There’s not a lot of support on the chart between $48 and $42,” he said. “Getting the close under $50 was very important on a technical basis. It just fed the negativity.”
From peak to trough, WTI has lost 40 percent of its value since hitting a roughly four-year high in early October. The slump has brought WTI’s year-to-date losses to more than 23 percent. Brent has fallen as much as 35 percent since its October high and is down about 16 percent in 2018.
This month, oil output from U.S. shale fields is set to rise above 8 million barrels per day for the first time ever, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported on Monday. Production from the seven key regions is forecast to rise by nearly 134,000 bpd in January, the biggest increase since September.
U.S. crude futures fell sharply lower on Monday after energy data firm Genscape reported that crude stockpiles at a closely watched storage hub in the Cushing, Oklahoma rose by more than 1 million barrels.
Meanwhile, sources tell Reuters Russia is pumping at 11.42 million bpd this month, a level that would mark an all-time high if confirmed.
Russia is the largest producer in an alliance of 10 oil-exporting countries that reached an agreement with OPEC to cut output earlier this month. The roughly two dozen producers began limiting their output last year in order to drain a global crude glut.
However, the cutbacks do not go into effect until January, and Russia has warned that it will only gradually taper off output.
Some market-watchers believe that signs of weakening global growth are now driving the oil price lower. Paul Sankey, lead oil analyst at Mizuho, says OPEC’s conservative forecast that oil demand will grow by 1.3 million bpd next year may be too high.
“Oil is weak because many demand signals are blinking red, and supply cuts won’t matter if the bottom falls out of demand,” Sankey said in a research note on Tuesday.
“Downward global GDP revisions keep coming, the risk of recession is rising, equity markets reflect it, flight-to-safety pushes the dollar higher, and those factors lead oil lower on demand worry.”
Goldman Sachs believes Brent crude will rebound and average $70 a barrel in 2019, but the investment bank’s head of commodities research, Jeff Currie, says that won’t happen tomorrow.
Oil was also dragged lower by a tumble in U.S. stock markets on Monday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 are now on pace for their worst December performance since the Great Depression in 1931.
The weakness across assets is causing investors to question whether there is something “bigger and more sinister” happening in the global economy, according to Currie.
“We’re not just seeing it in oil and commodities. It’s happening across the asset space,” he said. “It’s very rare that you see stocks, bonds and commodities all down together.”
Oil futures had pared overnight losses on Tuesday as U.S. stocks rebounded, but fell to new session lows in late morning trading.