March 22 (UPI) -- Crude oil prices extended losses early Friday as they fell for a second day following year-to-date highs on Wednesday, with investors weighing the impact of a potential economic slowdown on future demand.
As of 7:39 a.m. EST on Friday, West Texas Intermediate prices fell 0.8 percent to $59.45 per barrel. Brent crude fell 1.2 percent to $66.89 per barrel.
"The price action suggests investor uncertainty over domestic and global economic growth on future demand. Nonetheless, the market continues to be supported by the OPEC-led supply cuts and the United States sanctions against Iran and Venezuela," analyst James Hyerczyk wrote in a report.
WTI and Brent prices reached their highest points this year on Wednesday, closing at $60.23 per barrel, and $68.27 per barrel. They fell Thursday with WTI and Brent declining to $59.99, and $67.67 per barrel.
"On Thursday, both WTI and Brent crude oil hit new highs for the year, but both showed little follow-through to the upside when they took out the previous day's high," Hyerczyk added.
The fact both closed lower could be an indication "that selling may be greater than the buying at current price levels, he said.
Crude oil prices have increased significantly since the end of last year.
Much of the increase in recent weeks has been influenced by concern about potentially lost Venezuelan output, as well as indications that the world economy may slow and affect demand. Venezuela, which produces over a million barrels per day, is undergoing a deep political and economic crisis and in recent weeks saw extended electricity blackouts.
Near the end of December and in volatile trading because of weaker-than-usual volume associated with the Christmas-shortened trading week, Brent traded under $51 per barrel while WTI traded under $43 per barrel. Trading in lower volume is more volatile and variations can be wider.
On Oct. 3, WTI futures traded above $76 per barrel with Brent trading above $86 per barrel.
Jeff Yastine, senior research analyst at Banyan Hill Publishing, sees crude oil prices also influenced by the U.S. equity market.
"Both have been heavily correlated since late last year, bottoming and rising at the same time. But risks are rising that we could see a sharp retrenchment in oil prices if global growth doesn't start to accelerate soon," Yastine said, according to an email sent by Banyan Hill to UPI.
News that could affect the market in coming days includes "the resolution of the United States-China trade impasse" and reports about the U.S. economy that could indicate a slowdown, he added.