Oil prices plummeted by over 4% on Tuesday, reaching their lowest levels since late July. This decline in prices can be attributed to a variety of factors, including a blend of mixed Chinese economic data, a surge in OPEC exports, and the strengthening of the U.S. dollar.
According to a Reuters report, Brent crude futures closed below the $84 per barrel mark for the first time since the October 7 attack by Hamas Islamists on Israel. The global benchmark, Brent crude, settled at $81.61 per barrel, marking a decrease of $3.57, equivalent to 4.2 per cent.
Simultaneously, U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures ended at $77.37 per barrel, down by $3.45 or 4.3 per cent. Analysts noted that while traders remain watchful for signs of potential supply disruptions due to geopolitical conflicts, such concerns appear to be diminishing.
A contributing factor to the downward pressure on oil prices was a noticeable recovery in oil exports from the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). According to UBS analyst Giovanni Staunovo, OPEC’s crude exports have risen by approximately 1 million barrels per day (bpd) since their August low. This increase in supply has raised questions about whether oil-consuming nations can absorb the excess.
Furthermore, the premium on front-month loading Brent contracts over those loading six months later reached a two-and-a-half-month low, suggesting reduced anxiety regarding potential supply shortages.
On the demand side, although China’s crude oil imports in October displayed robust growth, the country’s overall exports of goods and services contracted more rapidly than anticipated. This has led analysts to speculate that the Chinese economic outlook is being impacted by declining demand in Western markets, which are the country’s primary export destinations.
The U.S. also contributed to the pressure on oil prices as it reported a substantial increase in crude oil stocks, rising by nearly 12 million barrels in the last week. This data contradicted the earlier forecast by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, which had predicted a 100,000-bpd increase in total petroleum consumption for the year. Instead, the latest report now expects a 300,000-bpd decrease in petroleum consumption.
Additionally, fading hopes for a peak in global interest rates boosted the U.S. dollar from recent lows. A stronger U.S. dollar has the effect of making oil more expensive for holders of other currencies. The U.S. central bank may take further actions to reduce inflation to its 2 per cent target, according to comments by Minneapolis Federal Reserve President Neel Kashkari.
Investors are also awaiting remarks from Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell, to be delivered on Wednesday and Thursday.