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Shale boom fears add to meltdown for oil’s worst week since 2016

Brent for April settlement declined $2.02 to end the session at $62.79

Gulf News

New York

The last time American oil had such a bad week two years ago, the commodity was trading near a $26 bottom.

On Friday alone, futures in New York lost almost $2, settling below $60 a barrel for the first time this year as the unravelling of global equity markets added to concerns that a new shale boom is in the making.

WTI for March delivery slid $1.95 to settle at $59.20 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the lowest since Dec. 22. For the week, futures declined 9.6 per cent, the most since January 2016.

Brent for April settlement declined $2.02 to end the session at $62.79 on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange. The global benchmark settled at a $3.80 premium to April WTI.

American crude output is soaring so fast that the US is on the verge of elbowing Saudi Arabia and Russia aside as the top supplier, gushing more than 10 million barrels a day. Drillers last week added the most oil rigs since January 2017.

“The supply backlash that we have been expecting in the US because of higher prices became very real in the market psyche,” Harry Tchilinguirian, head of commodity markets strategy at BNP Paribas SA in London, said by telephone.

Crude had been on a steady rally since June as the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries and Russia curtailed output to prop up prices, while American stockpiles shrank. But with some prime shale areas delivering profits with oil at $50 or even less, the US is producing the most crude since the 1970s.

Traders who try to divine market momentum from technical signals were closely watching New York crude’s 50-day moving average during the session, with West Texas Intermediate closing below the key level. A settlement below that mark for several days in a row would be regarded as a bearish indicator.

Can’t hide

While the S&P 500 Index erased losses on Friday, stocks still suffered their worst week since 2016.

“One of the things about this pullback that we are seeing in equities, which is really tough to manage, is that there does not appear to be any good place to hide,” Bill O’Grady, chief market strategist at Confluence Investment Management in St. Louis, said by telephone.

Oil and gas companies are feeling the pain. The S&P 500 Energy Index is on track for an 8.5 per cent drop last week, the largest on a weekly basis September 2015.

Exxon Mobil Corp, the world’s biggest explorer by market value, has lost about 16 per cent over six sessions, erasing $61 billion of market value.

The volatility in equity markets has carried over into the oil market as well. The CBOE/Nymex Oil Volatility Index rose for a sixth day to the highest level since August.

US production surged to 10.25 million barrels a day last week, according to government data released Wednesday and is forecast to top 11 million a day this November, a year earlier than previously expected.

The broader market sell-off could also weaken consumer sentiment and eventually affect demand for oil, Mark Watkins, a Park City, Utah-based regional investment manager at US Bank Wealth Management, which oversees $142 billion in assets, said by telephone.

“They may get a little bit more tight on their spending, and if that’s the case, it will eventually make its way into demand for oil and start to slow the rebalancing process.”