Oil is already in a bear market, but now a fresh, negative pattern is crystallizing in the commodity that has absolutely bludgeoned bulls over the past two months.
January West Texas Intermediate crude CLF9, -7.36% on its first full session as the front-month contract, was down a whopping 7.5%, to $52.91 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange and that downtrend has propelled the U.S. benchmark to the brink of forming a death cross—a chart formation in an asset that many market technicians believe marks the point that a short-term decline morphs into a longer-term downtrend (see chart below).
Based on the continuous chart for the most-active oil contract, the 50-day moving average at $67.58 a barrel is less than 0.5% shy of falling beneath the long-term 200-day moving average at $67.25, according to FactSet data. At the current rate of decline, a death cross could occur within a week or two.
Both the U.S. contract and the global benchmark Brent oil LCOF9, -7.05% are in bear market, usually characterized as a decline of at least 20% from a recent peak. In fact, U.S. oil is down 31% from its Oct. 3 peak at $76.41 a barrel.
Crude oil’s rapid descent has weighed on the energy sector, with the Energy Select Sector SPDR ETF XLE, -3.44% a popular fund used to bet on the energy sector, down 15.4%.
Meanwhile, the unraveling of oil prices, viewed by many as beneficial to average consumer, also has raised some questions about slowing global growth, rattling stock-market investors and pushing the Dow Jones Industrial AverageDJIA, -2.06% the S&P 500 index SPX, -1.70% and Nasdaq Composite IndexCOMP, -1.65% down by at least 8% since early October.
The current equity downdraft reflects an aversion to risk and has led to a number of ominous death crosses, including those in small-capitalization stocks, represented by the Russell 2000 index RUT, -1.74% and a number of so-called FAANG stocks, the quintet of prominent technology and internet-related companies, including Facebook Inc. FB, -0.04% Netflix Inc. NFLX, -0.65% Apple Inc. AAPL, -4.07% Amazon.com Inc. AMZN, -1.08% and Google-parent Alphabet Inc. GOOG, -0.12% GOOGL, -0.12% that helped to drive equities to repeated highs but are now currently unwinding.
As for oil, many industry experts had predicted that the bottom in the commodity would have already been put in, but growing U.S. inventories of crude and the Trump administration’s decision to grant waivers to major buyers of Iranian crude ahead of the renewal of sanctions on Tehran, has contributed to the fresh slide.