Oil futures fell Monday, building on a decline last week that came after a round of voluntary production cuts announced by OPEC+ left traders skeptical about compliance.
West Texas Intermediate crude for January delivery
fell 76 cents, or 1%, to $73.31 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange,
February Brent crude
dropped 78 cents, or 1%, $78.10 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe.
January gasoline was down 0.7% at $2.107 a gallon, wile January heating oil
edge up 0.2% to $2.666 a gallon.
January natural gas
declined 2.5% to $2.743 per million British thermal units.
Crude prices ended last week with back-to-back losses after OPEC+ producers on Thursday agreed to voluntarily cut around 2.2 million barrels a day (mbd) of crude from the market in the first quarter of next year, a figure that included a widely expected extension of Saudi Arabia’s 1 mbd voluntary output cut and Russia’s 300,000 barrel a day cut to crude exports.
The voluntary nature of the overall reductions sparked skepticism around enforcement and compliance, analysts said.
“Soft price action since the OPEC+ meeting is reflective of an investor cohort that remains perplexed on how to deploy risk. The near-term path of least resistance is lower, given the degree of ambiguity and lack of catalysts,” Michael Tran, commodity and digital intelligence strategist at RBC Capital Markets, said in a Sunday note.
“Oil has become a ‘show me’ type market. Now here comes the hard part: Prices will likely remain volatile and potentially directionless until the market sees clear data points pertaining to the voluntary output cuts,” he said.
Those cuts won’t be implemented until next month, with country-level production and export data to follow. That means it will be a “long and volatile” two months before there is even preliminary clarity on compliance — “a long stretch for a market that is seeing a high degree of uncertainty, lack of risk deployment and a liquidity vacuum,” Tran wrote.
Traders were also monitoring developments in the Middle East following an escalation of maritime attacks related to the Israel-Hamas war.
Ballistic missiles fired by Yemen’s Houthi rebels hit three commercial ships Sunday in the Red Sea, while a U.S. warship shot down three drones in self-defense during the hourslong assault, according to the U.S. military. The Iranian-backed Houthis claimed two of the attacks.
Oil futures spiked higher following the Hamas attack on southern Israel on Oct. 7 but failed to challenge their late September highs. Crude subsequently fell back as fears of a broader conflict that could threaten crude flows faded, trading well below levels seen just before the start of the conflict.
— Associated Press contributed.