The United States Oil Fund (NYSEArca: USO), which tracks West Texas Intermediate crude oil futures, is still lower by nearly 45% this year and with 2016 almost here, some market observers are forecasting another year of pain for oil futures. In fact, some of the bearish forecasts for 2016 oil prices are downright extreme.
A significant part of oil’s problems this year is attributable to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) refusing to cut production in an effort to stem slumping prices. However, OPEC still has plenty of skin in the game, hence the cartel’s bullish prediction on crude prices.
OPEC has kept up production to pressure high-cost rivals, such as the developing U.S. shale oil producers. The International Energy Agency expects it will take several years before OPEC can effectively price out high-cost producers. [Oil ETFs Face World-Record Supply Glut]
“Oil speculators are buying options contracts that will only pay out if crude drops to as low as $15 a barrel next year, the latest sign some investors expect an even deeper slump in energy prices,” reports Javier Blas for Bloomberg. “The bearish outlook has prompted investors to buy put options — which give them the right to sell at a predetermined price and time — at strike prices of $30, $25, $20 and even $15 a barrel, according to data from the New York Mercantile Exchange and the U.S. Depository Trust & Clearing Corp. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark, is currently trading at about $36 a barrel.”
Earlier this month, crude oil prices fell to their lowest levels since early 2009 after OPEC’s meeting Friday ended without an agreement to lower production, Reuters reports. OPEC has been fueling a global supply glut in an attempt to maintain market share and squeeze out high-cost oil producers, such as the nascent shale industry in the U.S.