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Oil prices sink for second consecutive day

Baker Hughes shows a spike in rig numbers and EIA already sees recovery in progress in U.S. shale.

By Daniel J. Graeber
Oil prices retreat for a second straight day after a U.S. government reports shows some domestic energy sector recovery is expected. File photo by Monika Graff/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/94e214049d7e6349a6badce6223985d8/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
Oil prices retreat for a second straight day after a U.S. government reports shows some domestic energy sector recovery is expected. File photo by Monika Graff/UPI | License Photo

NEW YORK, Dec. 7 (UPI) -- Crude oil prices recorded a second straight day of steep declines Wednesday as data suggest supply-side pressures building in spite of OPEC's best efforts.

Crude oil prices soared as much as $10 per barrel since members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries agreed to a production ceiling of 32.5 million barrels per day starting in January. Iran, one of the stronger producers in OPEC, has room for production growth and two of the member states -- Libya and Nigeria -- were exempt from the deal as they work to resolve lingering conflict.

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Oil prices retreated in Tuesday trading in partial response to statements from Iran's president that his country could sell as much oil as it sees fit. OPEC's deal is meant to restore balance to an oil market that started to swing to the supply side with the rise of U.S. shale oil production.

Some recovery in crude oil prices before the OPEC agreement was met with an increase in exploration and production activity as energy companies regain confidence in future market trajectory. Oilfield services company Baker Hughes reported a 6 percent increase in U.S. exploration and production activity in the United States in November, against a slight decline in the Middle East.

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While there's a lag time between an increase in rig counts and actual production figures, crude oil prices continued their retreat in early Wednesday trading. The price for Brent crude oil was down 1.3 percent to start the day in New York at $53.24 per barrel. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark price for oil, was off 1.4 percent from the previous day to open at $50.21 per barrel.

Crude oil prices will be influenced later in the morning after the U.S. Energy Information Administration publishes weekly data on domestic crude oil inventories. In its latest short-term market report, EIA said oil priced above $50 per barrel could trigger a recovery in U.S. shale oil production. The administration said it still expects a decline in domestic crude oil production, but by only less than 100,000 bpd from 2016 levels.

Oil prices have been in volatile trading territory on the back of OPEC movements for much of the latter half of the year, rising above $50 per barrel after a September meeting in Algeria, but faltering as traders assessed the narrative more closely.

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OPEC and other producers meet again during the weekend to discuss the terms of last week's agreement from Vienna.

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