HEADLINES: Oil Prices’ Bumpy Ride

Thursday, November 15, 2018 - 2:35pm

It’s been a bumpy ride for oil prices over the last two weeks. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) climbed back slightly at midweek to roughly $56 a barrel following a record-setting 12-day decline.

American crude has plunged 20% from its recent peak, entering a bear market on Nov. 8. Many industry watchers expected prices to rise as U.S. sanctions against Iran kicked in this month but factors such as pipeline woes in the Bakken and continued production from OPEC have taken a toll. OPEC has recently indicated it is considering cutting production by as much as 1 million barrels per day in response.

U.S. President Donald Trump was joined by French President Emmanuel Macron this week in saying that the pair would continue to put pressure on producers to bring down oil prices. “Oil prices have started to fall and I hope they continue to fall,” the French president said in an interview on Nov. 14. Meanwhile, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported this week that it expects crude oil output from seven major shale basins in the U.S. to hit a record of 7.9 million barrels per day in December.

And while the crude oil price struggles, natural gas futures, saw a spectacular climb of about 18%—their biggest in more than 14 years—as cold weather forecasts continued to feed concerns about tight U.S. supplies.

TransCanada is reviewing a decision by a Montana judge blocking construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, but the impact on project timing remains unclear. Paul Miller, president of liquids pipelines for the company, said at an investor day in Toronto: “At this point, it is too soon to determine what impact the ruling will have on our schedule.” Miller added TransCanada remains fully committed to the $8 billion pipeline, which would carry crude from Alberta to Steele City, Neb., where it would connect to refineries in the Midwest and Gulf Coast, as well as export terminals.

And finally, shares of oilfield services firm Weatherford International slipped below $1 apiece on Nov. 13, to a 29-year low, the latest sign that investors are losing confidence in its turnaround plan. The stock, which peaked at almost $50 in 2008, has fallen sharply since oil prices crashed in late 2014, leading to a string of losses at Weatherford since the third quarter of that year. The company has $7.6 billion in long-term debt.