UPDATE: 4:12 p.m. EST -- Oil prices briefly skated below $30 per barrel on Tuesday, reaching $29.93 before rising again prior to the market's close. The price of U.S. crude finished at $30.44, its lowest point since December of 2003.
Oil prices hovered just above $30 per barrel on Tuesday, marking a 12-year low as analysts once again ratchet down price forecasts for the coming year. The latest dip puts the price of a barrel of crude down by more than 17 percent from above $36 at the start of the year.
The price of U.S. West Texas Intermediate, a classification of U.S. crude used as a benchmark for the industry, was at $30.15 around midday. It hasn’t been recorded at a level so low since Dec. 1, 2003. Separately, the price of a form of light crude called Brent that is considered reflective of the industry globally, sold at $30.56, which represented its lowest point since April 2, 2004.
The pricing changes since the start of the year have prompted some analysts to predict prices as low as $10 per barrel later this year. Crude prices have already dropped by 34 percent in the new year.
On Tuesday, Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu, president of the OPEC Conference and Nigeria’s oil minister, offered a flicker of hope to oil companies that have announced layoffs and sustained declining revenues. He said several OPEC members have requested an emergency meeting to discuss pricing and production. The group’s next regularly scheduled meeting is on June 2.
OPEC’s policies largely determine the price of oil worldwide since its members produce about 40 percent of the world’s crude and represent 60 percent of oil that is sold internationally. Though oil prices have dropped by more than 70 percent over the past year, OPEC has kept production high. This creates a surplus that further drives prices down.
However, soon after Kachikwu’s comments, both the United Arab Emirates and Iraq, two of the largest producers in OPEC, quickly signaled they might not be willing to cooperate with any plans to slash production. UAE’s Energy Minister Suhail Mohammed Al Mazrouei said OPEC’s current strategy was “working” to drop prices to a necessary level that is competitive with cheap U.S. producers, CNN reported. Before the downturn, those producers threatened to undercut OPEC’s market dominance.