By Myra P. Saefong and William Watts
Oil prices ended Monday at their lowest in more than week, caught up in a selloff among risky assets as prices extended a pullback from seven-year highs.
Oil remained somewhat underpinned, however, by worries over potential disruptions as traders monitored rising tensions over Ukraine and the interception of missile attacks by Yemen’s Houthi rebels on the United Arab Emirates. Oil prices still trade nearly 11% higher month to date.
“While fundamental and political forces remain positive for crude oil, those appear to be getting overwhelmed by market forces” Monday, Colin Cieszynski, chief market strategist at SIA Wealth Management, told MarketWatch.
“Last week, crude oil had become technically overbought and was getting due for a trading correction, which has started to unfold,” he said. “The catalyst for this appears to be a general rotation of capital out of equities and commodities and into defensive havens like bonds and gold. ”
Oil’s decline Monday came as U.S. stock benchmarks declined sharply ahead of the Wednesday’s Federal Open Market Committee decision on monetary policy and a wave of earnings reports.
West Texas Intermediate crude for March delivery /zigman2/quotes/209723049/delayed CL00 +0.82% /zigman2/quotes/211629951/delayed CL.1 +0.82% fell $1.83, or nearly 2.2%, to settle at $83.31 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the lowest front-month finish since Jan. 13, according to Dow Jones Market data. March Brent crude , the global benchmark, lost $1.62, or 1.8%, at $86.27 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe, the lowest since Jan. 14.
Both Brent and WTI lost ground Friday, but logged a fifth straight weekly gain after closing at more than seven-year highs on Wednesday.
“The further escalation of the Ukraine conflict and the fraught security situation in the Middle East justify a risk premium on the oil price because the countries involved — Russia and the U.A.E. — are important members of OPEC+. And the extended cartel is finding it hard in any case to achieve the agreed production level,” wrote Carsten Fritsch, analyst at Commerzbank, in a note.
The U.S. State Department over the weekend ordered the families of U.S. diplomatic personnel to leave Ukraine, as concerns grow about an imminent Russian invasion , with the U.S. threatening sanctions if Moscow invades its neighbor. NATO is putting extra forces on standby and sending ships and jets to Eastern Europe.
And the United Arab Emirates said it intercepted two ballistic missile s targeting its capital, Abu Dhabi, with Houthi rebels blamed for brewing conflict in the region. Oil prices were lifted last week after the Iran-aligned Houthis claimed responsibility for an attack that targeted a key oil facility in Abu Dhabi, killing three people.
Still, Troy Vincent, senior market analyst at DTN, argued that the oil rally over the past month got “too far ahead of the physical market reality.”
He said that DTN’s refined fuels demand data show gasoline and diesel demand both weakening in the week ending Jan. 21, “which portends continued builds in fuel inventories.” That follows “large builds in gasoline stocks in recent weeks that have put U.S. inventories above year-ago levels,” Vincent told MarketWatch.
“Historically strong diesel demand continues to be the bright spot for the oil complex, but weakening manufacturing PMI data today, falling stock prices and high inflation levels may be putting this bright spot in demand at increasing risk,” Vincent said.
On Nymex Monday, February gasoline lost 1.8% to $2.398 a gallon and February heating oil fell 2.4% to $2.627 a gallon.
Natural-gas futures for February delivery settled at $4.027 per million British thermal units, up 0.7%.