Crude oil futures were volatile Friday in part as investors are concerned about risks of an economic slowdown, yet the move into normal backwardation reflects healthier price levels, analysts said.
“If equities are selling off, the public is taking a risk off stance, pulling in their wallets and moving from a risk-on, the global economic expansion, to a risk-off, for potential global economic contraction,” John Thorpe, a commodity broker at Los Angeles-based Cannon Trading, told UPI via email.
Andrew Pawielski, analyst at Chicago-based Daniels Trading, also saw a correlation with stock market declines earlier in the day.
“We are seeing WTI crude oil prices highly correlated to the futures equity markets this week and the bearishness we are experiencing,” Pawielski told UPI in an email.
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“Specifically this morning we saw early morning bullish crude movement up to the $67 price point and when the equity futures markets sharply sold off this morning 30 minutes after the cash stock open, the crude support could not hold,” Pawielski added.
Around 11 a.m. front-month Brent crude oil was traded at $76.51 per barrel, or about 0.5 percent lower. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark, traded at $66.77 per barrel, or 0.7 percent lower. But by 11 a.m., Brent was trading at $77.36 per barrel, or 0.6 percent higher, while WTI traded at $67.46 per barrel, or 0.2 percent higher.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average was on Friday as of 11:27 a.m. down 1.6 percent to 24,595.98. This was down from 25,492.14 at the start of the week.
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There have been concerns about an economic slowdown worldwide partly because of trade disputes between the U.S. and China, the world’s two largest economies.
“Of particular note, the crude markets had been trading in what is known as contango for over a year and just last week, finally moved into a normal backwardation mode, where the front months are trading a lower prices than the back months, which represents a healthier, price level,” Thorpe added.
According to CME data as of Friday at 10:55 am EST, WTI futures prices were higher for later months compared with front-months.
Compared with WTI for December delivery at $67.10 per barrel, futures for January delivery traded at $67.15 per barrel rising to $67.23 per barrel in February, to $67.28 for March and about $67.38 in April and $67.50 in May.
Brent crude oil prices reached a peak above $85 per barrel and WTI above $76 per barrel earlier in October, amid concerns about reductions in the global supply. These concerns were raised over U.S. sanctions on Iran going into effect by November 5.
However, earlier this week prices fell sharply after the top Saudi energy official said the country had ramped up production and was working with both OPEC and non-OPEC members to make sure to cover any supply disruption.
“With crude experiencing bearish fundamentals the last 2 weeks on increased supply concerns, any other bearish movement in equities tends to be a catalyst for sellers to push the short term price of crude down,” Pawielski said.