The last day of trading in 2014 saw Crude close out at $53.27/bbl, which was down 45% from the prior year. 2015 continued the trend with WTI dropping another 30% over the year - with December 31, 2015 settling out at $37.04.
This week we crashed down through the $35-36 dollar support levels and are rapidly approaching the next one of $32.50/bbl after todays tumble resulted in Crude closing out at $33.97/bbl.
Let's take a step back and look at what went on this week to push oil prices down 8% since December 31st.
Monday, January 4th, markets initially shot up with ULSD and RBOB both jumping over a nickel by 10am (+.0516 and +.0576, respectively), before almost immediately changing course - both products were down by noon to flat on ULSD and only up .0156 on gas. So what happened?
Monday brought the news that the Saudi's had cut all diplomatic ties with Iran and ordered all Iranian diplomats to leave the country within 24 hours. This was in response to the Kingdom executing 47 people over the New Years weekend, including and most importantly, a renowned Shiite cleric, which prompted riots and vandalism to the Saudi embassies in Iran and Bahrain.
As the day went on however, the analysis of the story moved from fear of international conflict bumping up cost over supply disruptions, to the realization that the standoff between Iran and Saudi Arabia meant that this could essentially be the death knell for OPEC. As far as the bears see it, this breakdown of relations essentially guarantees the Saudis will not take any moves to cut production in order to stabilize pricing, because to do so would greatly help Iran, in that the newly allowed exports they promise to flood the markets with would generate them much more revenue.
Economic data from China Monday supports the bears as well. It was a factor in pushing down oil prices, as well as being responsible for crushing European markets and resulting in the single worst year opening for the Dow Jones since 1932. Overnight, Chinese stocks crashed over 7% and led to a halt in trading across the board - a halt that didnt come soon enough not to pummel stocks internationally. One can only hope the old Wall Street adage "As goes January, so goes the year" is wrong this time.
There was some bouncing around Tuesday, particularly on the overnights as investors and analysts weighed the API projections that predicted draws in Crude stocks to be announced Wednesday. However, today's EIA report showed just the opposite, and swiftly tanked the market across the board. At the close, ULSD lost -.0446 to settle at 1.0807, RBOB shed almost ten cents (-.0949) to close at 1.1618 (very close to the $1.10 support level) and Crude settled down $2 at $33.97.
What next? Bears are predicting oil hits and potentially breaks through the $32.50 support level for a brief stint in the upper 20's ($28 range), while the Bulls are predicting a jump back to the $37 level. We shall see.