The sell-off in the oil market accelerated Wednesday, with US crude prices sinking below $70 a barrel for the first time since July.
The latest wave of selling bodes well for consumers, suggesting gas prices could fall even closer towards $3 a gallon nationally.
Gas prices bottomed out at $3.10 a gallon in late December last year just before Christmas. The national average hasn’t been below $3 since May 2021.
US crude tumbled to as low as $69.11 a barrel on Wednesday, the lowest intraday level since June 29. Oil closed at $69.38 a barrel, down 4.1% on the day. Brent crude, the international benchmark, fell 3.8% to $74.25 a barrel.
Analysts said the selloff is being driven by a confluence of factors, including concerns about soft demand in China, record-setting supply from the United States and disappointment over last week’s OPEC+ decision.
“The market has fallen off quite rapidly,” said Andy Lipow, president of consulting firm Lipow Oil Associates. “It could really be interpreted as OPEC+ losing its ability to control prices.”
Last week, OPEC+ members agreed to supply cuts but that agreement was met with skepticism because of the voluntary nature of the move.
“The OPEC+ production cuts appear to be more style than substance,” Lipow said.
All of this is welcome news for consumers. Even before Wednesday’s oil sell-off, the national average price for regular gas fell to $3.22 a gallon, according to AAA. That’s a fresh 11-month low and well below the peak in September of $3.88.
Gas prices are likely to decline another 5 to 7 cents a gallon in the next week, according to Lipow. He said while new turmoil in the Middle East or a Venezuelan takeover of Guyana could revive oil prices, there is a growing chance that US gas prices will drop towards $3 a gallon nationally.
Robert Yawger, vice president of energy futures at Mizuho Securities, described Wednesday’s sell-off as a “meltdown.” New federal data, revealing a large increase in weekly gasoline inventories, caused concern about weak energy demand, according to Yawger.
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