So much for the rally. Oil will likely still head as low as $30, analyst John Kilduff told CNBC on Thursday.
“I still believe we’re going to go to that $30 to $33 area, which is the low point from the financial crisis in 2008, 2009. What you saw over the past several days was technical in nature, a short squeeze. This volatility is a little crazy and I think that $30 target is a downside target is for technicians that are in this market,” the founding partner of Again Capital said in a “Squawk Box” interview.
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U.S. crude tumbled 9 percent on Wednesday to settle at $48.45, erasing nearly all of its gains in the previous two sessions. The benchmark commodity—West Texas Intermediate—had soared 22 percent from a nearly six-year low of $43.58 last Thursday, ending the day at $53.05 on Tuesday.
The rally’s sharp reversal spilled over into the stock market, with energy stocks leading the day’s decline in the S&P 500.
Data on Friday that showed exploration and production companies had shut down 90 rigs in the prior week boosted the rally. Kilduff said that the industry had merely gotten rid of “the runts of the litter,” noting that U.S. production had not fallen and still stands at 9.1 million barrels a day.
He said speculation that Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, would agree to production cuts in order to reach a deal with Russia on the Syrian conflict also sent oil higher.
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Saudi Arabia’s refusal to support cuts at a meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries in November accelerated the rout. Meanwhile, Russia is facing the twin headwinds of falling oil prices and economic sanctions over its role in the conflict in neighboring Ukraine.
“People want to write off OPEC. You can’t do that. They do still matter to a degree. A coordinated cut of some magnitude would stop the price slide,” Kilduff said.
Fluctuations in currency markets and central bank action has also fed volatility in the oil markets. A strong U.S. dollar drives down oil prices because the commodity is bought and sold in the currency.
“At this point, FX volatility has become the prime driver in global volatility. You cannot make any investment decisions without actually understanding which way the dollar is basically heading,” said David Woo, Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s head of global rates and currencies research.
Forex volatility is at its highest level in 20 years for noncrisis periods, research from Bank of America released this week showed.
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That volatility could continue as countries around the world engage in a currency war, he said. With nations facing fiscal constraints, the only tool available to central banks to stimulate growth is a weaker currency, he said.
“If everyone’s playing this game you have no choice but to play it because otherwise you get left behind. We call it war because it’s a zero sum game. Somebody wins, and somebody else loses,” Woo said.
There’s little the United States can do to stop the dollar from strengthening because the European Central Bank and the Bank of Japan are intent on spurring growth through monetary policy.
But the most important question for oil—and the biggest risk of 2015—is the prospect that China follows suit and moves to depreciate its currency.
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“If China decides to play the same game, it will be a disaster because commodity prices are going to crash because China consumes 40 percent of the world’s basic commodities,” Woo said. “And then you’re going to trigger a competitive devaluation around the world. The 10-year yield is going to go to 1.25 percent if China wants to devalue [its currency] 10 percent.”