Oil prices are falling sharply again, with both Brent and West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures down more than 4% on Sept. 29. At this writing, Brent November deliveries are priced at $40.63 per barrel, while WTI November deliveries have fallen to $38.67 per barrel. While there isn’t one single thing behind today’s sharp decline, there’s a lot of uncertainty driving traders’ decisions. Global cases of COVID-19 are on the rise, and the global death toll has now surpassed 1 million people.
In recent weeks, most of the news in the oil patch hasn’t been particularly good for oil prices, and volatility and worries about continued oversupply and weakening demand are pushing crude lower. Oil stocks are taking a beating, with the Energy Select Sector SPDR ETF (NYSEMKT:XLE) down 3.1%. Oil producers and oilfield service and equipment providers, in particular, are taking it on the chin, with the SPDR S&P Oil & Gas Exploration & Production ETF (NYSEMKT:XOP) and the SPDR S&P Oil & Gas Equipment & Services ETF (NYSEMKT:XES) down 3.9% and 4.2%, respectively.
Global heavyweights resetting the market
Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia shifted its focus back toward the U.S. and Asia, lowering crude prices for refining customers in both markets. This was the first time since before the coronavirus pandemic the petro giant discounted crude to the U.S. — a clear salvo at U.S. shale producers to hold off on boosting output. China soaked up an enormous amount of heavily discounted crude in the second quarter, but purchases fell off in the second quarter as Chinese ports filled with oil tankers waiting for weeks to offload shipments.
Libya also recently returned to the international oil market. Most of its oil industry has been shuttered this year due to internal strife, but a recent agreement has reopened its