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Oil Declines to Two-Week Low as Global Stock Rout Deepens


February 6, 2018, by Grant Smith

(Bloomberg)

Oil slid to a two-week low and headed for its longest losing streak in two months as a plunge in U.S. equities dragged other markets lower.

Crude futures in New York fell a third day, sliding as much as 1.3 percent. Stock indexes from Japan to Germany tumbled on Tuesday after a frantic sell-off in U.S. shares sent the Dow Jones Industrial Average to its biggest loss in 6 1/2 years. Nonetheless, oil market conditions look “solid” thanks to production cuts by OPEC, according to Vitol Group, the world’s largest independent energy trader.

Oil is being swept into the global sell-off at a time when concerns are emerging that a rally in crude is overdone. Speculation is also rising that U.S. shale production and stockpiles will undermine efforts by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies to trim a global glut. The number of rigs drilling for crude in America has jumped to the highest in almost six months, and U.S. output breached 10 million barrels a day to the highest in more than 40 years in November.

“Oil prices could not escape the risk-off mood in financial markets,” said Norbert Ruecker, head of commodity research at Julius Bear Group Ltd. in Zurich.

Spreading Rout

West Texas Intermediate for March delivery dropped as much as 86 cents to $63.29 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the lowest since Jan. 22, and traded at $63.69 as of 10:32 a.m. in London. Prices are headed for a third straight decline, their longest losing streak since Nov. 29. Total volume traded was about 67 percent above the 100-day average.

Volatility jumped, with the Cboe/Nymex Oil Volatility Index gaining 12 percent on Monday to the highest level since November.

Brent for April settlement lost 67 cents, or 1 percent, falling to $66.95 on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange. The global benchmark crude traded at a premium of $3.61 to April WTI.

Energy-related stocks also took a hit as equity benchmarks across Asia and Europe spiraled. PetroChina slumped as much as 7.3 percent and Cnooc slid almost 7 percent at one point in Hong Kong. In Europe, Royal Dutch Shell Plc dropped by 2.2 percent and BP Plc fell by 1.3 percent, even as the latter company reported the highest quarterly profit in almost three years.

In the U.S. on Monday, the two biggest oil companies — Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chevron Corp. — each plunged more than 5 percent to be among the worst performers on the Dow Jones.

Concern that American oil may thwart a further rally in crude prices has also been weighing on investors’ minds. U.S. inventories probably grew 3 million barrels a day in the week through Feb. 2, according to a Bloomberg survey ahead of government data due Wednesday. Nationwide crude stockpiles in the previous week added 6.78 million barrels, the biggest gain in barrel terms in almost 11 months.

Other oil-market news:

Gasoline futures continued their slide, falling for a fourth day to $1.8136 a gallon, the lowest level in almost a month. Pessimism is prospering in the oil-options market after unbridled investor optimism lifted crude futures to their best January in more than a decade.



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