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U.S. Oil Output Soars, Energy Prices Tumble
December 6, 2023
Declining Energy Prices: A Relief for Consumers and the Fed
Energy prices are showing a downward trend, with the benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil seeing a 22% drop in the last quarter. Concurrently, the average price of gasoline in the United States has fallen by 16%, settling at $3.21 per gallon.
This decline comes as the U.S. hits new production highs, extracting a record 13.2 million barrels per day and surpassing oil-exporting heavyweights such as Russia and Saudi Arabia. The decrease in energy costs is benefiting American consumers and is also aiding the Federal Reserve in its efforts to control inflation.
OPEC’s Response to U.S. Production
Globally, OPEC members are adapting to the spike in U.S. oil production, with Saudi Arabia’s response being particularly noteworthy. The kingdom has reduced its output significantly in an effort to stabilize the market. Despite these actions, oil investors remain cautious, and signs of tension within the OPEC+ alliance are surfacing.
Contributing factors to the drop in oil prices include China’s economic slowdown, Russia’s covert oil shipments, and the easing of geopolitical tensions, such as the conflict between Israel and Hamas. Even with these challenges, Saudi Arabia is hesitant to fully ramp up production, which could potentially weaken U.S. shale but risk causing discord within OPEC.
U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve Considerations
There’s also a keen focus on whether the U.S. will top up its Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR), which, after releasing 180 million barrels last year, is at its lowest since the 1980s.
The Biden administration has signaled that it would consider buying oil back when prices are between $67 and $72 per barrel.
Despite the fact that such opportunities have arisen, the government has largely refrained from restocking the SPR and is instead only conducting modest buybacks of about 3 million barrels per month due to the unique storage facility layouts.
Technical Outlook and Investment Strategies
Analyst Damir Tokic provides a perspective on the future direction of crude oil prices, predicting that they are likely to continue their descent before stabilizing around the $70 mark, a key support level. While Tokic notes the bearish trend, he cautions against short-selling crude oil due to potential volatility from geopolitical events. Instead, he suggests investors consider a long-put option strategy to handle market uncertainties.