During this Christmas-holiday shortened trading week, U.S West Texas Intermediate crude oil is set to finish the year in a strong position to continue the rally into early 2020. Although the market has been on a tear since the week-ending October 25, it was the three bottoms the week-ending June 7, August 9 and October 4 that saved this market from revisiting the lows in the $40’s hit on Christmas Eve 2018.
Generally speaking, the bullishness this year has been fueled by a number of factors including progress on Brexit, the U.S./China trade front and continued strength in the U.S. economy. Specifically, it was a pair of well-timed decisions by OPEC and its allies to reduce then deepen production cuts that helped stabilize prices. Ultimately, it was likely the actions by the U.S. Federal Reserve that helped stave off a steep break and return to last December’s major low.
At the end of 2018, crude oil prices were plunging as recession fears reached a fever pitch amid the combination of tariff tensions, Fed policy tightening, and a downdraft In U.S. manufacturing. Fourth-quarter GDP growth had slipped to nearly 1.0% from close to 3.0% the quarter before, with Purchasing Manager Index surveys sharply lower.
This year is ending with the economy strengthening on the back of continued labor-market strength and receding tariff threats dampening recession calls. GDP growth is now hovering near 2.4%, unemployment is at a 50-year low and wages are rising.