Oil settled lower on Thursday, with U.S. prices posting their first loss in three sessions on as fears that aggressive monetary tightening by the Federal Reserve will tip the economy into recession.
Strength in the U.S. dollar also pressured dollar-denominated crude prices.
West Texas Intermediate crude for December delivery
fell $1.83, or 2%, to settle at $88.17 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange after ending Wednesday at $90 — the highest front-month finish since Oct. 10.
January Brent crude BRN00
the global benchmark, was down $1.49, or nearly 1.6%, at $94.67 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe.
Back on Nymex, December gasoline
fell 0.1% to $2.6939 a gallon, while December heating oil
added 5.1% at $3.8653 a gallon.
December natural gas
dropped 4.7% to $5.975 per million British thermal units after climbing by 9.7% on Wednesday.
Concerns that the Fed is “much more likely to overshoot on rates rather than doing too little” have grown, raising the risk of the economy “tipping” into recession, said Robbie Fraser, manager, global research and analytics at Schneider Electric.
That’s a particularly “bearish prospect for crude prices due to the potential demand hit, and is further reinforced by the stronger dollar that weighs on dollar-denominated crude prices,” he said in daily commentary.
The Fed on Wednesday raised its key interest rate by 75 basis points, or 0.75 percentage points, as expected, delivering a policy statement that was interpreted as a signal that the size of rate increases would likely fall at the December meeting.
Fed Chairman Jerome Powell, in a subsequent news conference, said that while smaller rate rises may be in store in future meetings, it was premature to talk about a pause in rate increases and that the peak in rates would be higher than Fed officials previously thought and that rates would likely remain high for a long period, while the path to a “soft landing” for the economy had narrowed due to persistently high inflation.
See: 5 things we learned from Jerome Powell’s ‘whipsaw’ press conference
“The Fed-induced selloff in broader risk assets certainly limited the upside appetite in oil,” said Ipek Ozkardeskaya, senior analyst at Swissquote Bank, in market commentary. U.S. crude prices are unlikely to pick up much good momentum above $90, “as recession fears should give cold feet to investors who would otherwise buy oil at the current prices.”
Also see: ‘Extraordinarily low’ U.S. diesel supplies keep prices for the fuel high at the pump
The Institute for Supply Management’s barometer of U.S. service sector business conditions fell to 54.4% in October to touch the lowest level since the U.S. economic lockdowns in 2020.
The dollar rose sharply in the wake of the Fed’s decision, with the ICE U.S. Dollar Index
a measure of the currency against a basket of six major rivals, up 1.4%. The index is up nearly 18% year to date. A stronger dollar is seen as a negative for commodities priced in the unit, making them more expensive to users of other currencies.
Still, Tyler Richey, co-editor of Sevens Report Research, pointed out that oil has been trending higher in recent weeks.
It’s found support amid “renewed hopes that China’s economy will reopen in the months ahead, rising geopolitical tensions surrounding the Ukraine war as well as in the Middle East,” and prospects of a standing bid from the Energy Department in the $70 a barrel range as the U.S. government looks to replenish the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, he said.
“An uncertain global economic outlook, and more specifically increasingly pressing recession worries, are for now keeping WTI prices capped in the low $90s, but due to supply concerns, there are emerging risks of an upside move as we approach the end of the year,” Richey said.
Meanwhile, natural-gas futures declined as volatile trading in the commodity continued. Prices for the front-month futures contract fell more than 5%, a day after posting a sharp rise.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration reported on Thursday that domestic natural-gas supplies rose by 107 billion cubic feet for the week ended Oct. 28. That compared with an average analyst forecast for an increase of 95 billion cubic feet, according to a survey conducted by S&P Global Commodity Insights.