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Why Did Oil Prices Fall?

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Nov. 20 2020, Updated 4:05 p.m. ET

US crude oil

On March 22, 2018, US crude oil May futures fell 1.3% and closed at $64.3 per barrel. US crude oil ETFs’ returns on the same date were:

  • The United States Oil ETF (USO) fell 1.7%.
  • The PowerShares DB Oil ETF (DBO) fell 1.5%.
  • The Credit Suisse X-Links WTI Crude Oil Index ETN (OIIL) fell 1.3%.
  • The ProShares Ultra Bloomberg Crude Oil ETF (UCO) fell 3.5%.

On the same date, oil-weighted stocks Denbury Resources (DNR) and Whiting Petroleum (WLL) fell 4.1% and 1%. These oil-weighted stocks operate with a production mix of at least 60% in liquids based on their latest quarterly production data. Liquids include crude oil, condensates, and natural gas liquids.

On March 22, 2018, the S&P 500 Index (SPY) fell 2.5%. Concerns about escalating trade tension dragged equity markets lower—a negative development for oil prices. In Part 3, we’ll analyze the statistical relationship between the equity market and oil prices.

However, factors like a possible fall in Venezuela’s oil output, Saudi Arabia’s crown prince’s visit to the US that sparked speculations about possible US sanctions on Iran, and bullish inventory data helped US crude oil gain 5% on March 15–22, 2018.

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Natural gas

On March 22, natural gas April 2018 futures declined 0.8% and settled at $2.62 per million British thermal units. On the same day, the EIA data showed a fall of 86 billion cubic feet in natural gas inventories for the week ending March 16—2 Bcf less than the market’s expectation. Natural gas prices could have fallen in the last trading session because the draw was less than the market’s expectation.

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