U.S. Crude Rounds out Year at $45; More Weakness, Volatility Seen

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U.S. Crude Rounds out Year at $45; More Weakness, Volatility Seen

Investing.com – Oil has ended the year at around $45 per barrel, which was probably a given as of Friday.

The question is how will we start the new year and where might we finish its first week.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate ended 2018 up 8 cents, or 0.2%, at $45.41 per barrel.

Brent rose $1.02, or 2%, to $54.23 by 2:50 PM ET (19:23 GMT).

The annual and other milestones were a lot worse.

WTI is down 25% on the year, its first losing year since 2015. It also is down 41% from four-year highs of nearly $77 a barrel hit in early October. For the month, it was down 11%, its worst December performance since 2015.

Brent is down 20% on the year and is off 39% from four-year highs of nearly $87 a barrel hit in early October.

For 2019, Adam Sarhan, chief executive at global macro fund 50 Park Investments in New York, is bearish.

“Six months out, prices could probably be lower than they are today,” said Sarhan, who’s advising his clients to be cautious of any oil rally in the absence of major catalysts,” Sarhan said.

“There’s no bullish change in fiscal policy or monetary policy that I see on the horizon,” he added. “We do not have any kind of fixed stimulus coming from global central banks. In fact, there’s more tightening and that’s not good for markets.”

Others believe that traders back from the holidays with a sharper focus on energy fundamentals will become more sensitive to the machinations of OPEC, which, interestingly, is planning an extraordinary meeting in April (read another production cut) to apply a new round of upward pressure on the market.

If that’s the case — and if last week was any indication — then 2019 might be a rollercoaster year like no other. Just before the Christmas break, WTI saw a 7% plunge. That was followed by a 9% jump right after the holiday and a 4% slump the very next session.

Much of the recent volatility in oil has been more because of equities than energy. To oil producers’ chagrin, the 1.2-million-barrels-per-day output cut announced on Dec. 7 by OPEC and Russia has been neutered by unyielding U.S. production. With little else to go on, oil has behaved more like Wall Street’s twin, falling and rising on global recession worries and powerful buybacks prompted by global macro factors, rather than crude production outages in Libya and Venezuela.

“Volatility is looking like the way forth from here and I’ll be ready to sell into any strength,” said Tariq Zahir, an oil bear at Tyche Capital Advisors in New York.

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