Oil set for worst week in year as rout inflames U.S. supply fear

By Sharon Cho on 2/9/2018

SINGAPORE (Bloomberg) -- Oil headed toward its worst week in almost a year as the global risk-asset rout further rankled investors already concerned over growing U.S. supply.

Futures traded in New York are on track to post a 7.5% slump this week as everything from equities to currencies tumbled. Adding to the alarm was data that showed U.S. oil production at a new high, and key technical indicators pointing to a further retreat in prices. Now West Texas Intermediate is spiraling toward $60/bbl, all but erasing this year’s gain.

Oil’s weakness so far this month follows the best start to the year in over a decade, which was largely driven by gains in the U.S. dollar. Yet fears that American shale production will outweigh efforts by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to cut global inventories have been brought back to the forefront of investors’ minds as data show U.S. output now eclipses Saudi Arabia’s.

“The markets are concerned that domestic oil production in the U.S. has continued to rise and put pressure on OPEC to perhaps break its current compliance with its ceiling,” said David Lennox, a commodity analyst at Fat Prophets in Sydney. Following the selloff in equity markets, “there’s a little bit of risk off the table. In the short term, we’ll see oil prices below $60.”

WTI for March delivery fell as much as 79 cents to $60.36/bbl on the New York Mercantile Exchange before trading at $60.57 at 3:21 p.m. in Singapore. Prices are on course for their biggest weekly loss since March 10. Total volume traded was about 0.6% above the 100-day average.

Brent for April settlement dropped 44 cents to $64.37/bbl on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange. The global benchmark traded at a $3.98 premium to April WTI.

U.S. production surged to 10.25 MMbbl a day last week, according to government data released Wednesday. With American production set to climb even higher later this year, the Saudi- and Russia-led alliance of other major suppliers will come under renewed pressure to reconsider self-imposed output caps aimed at eroding a glut.

It wasn’t just futures that took a beating this week. Energy shares from ExxonMobil Corp. in the U.S. to PetroChina Co. in Hong Kong tumbled after the Dow Jones Industrial Average recorded its biggest point-loss ever on Monday and plunged more than 1,000 points on Thursday, sparking a flight from risk assets.

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