U.S. oil flirted with bear market territory on Thursday as investor concerns about overproduction sent prices lower.
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U.S West Texas Intermediate crude prices were down nearly 1 percent to roughly $61 per barrel in midday trading, down about 20 percent from record prices of $76.41 a barrel in early October, and fell as low as $60.83.
If prices close below $61.13 per barrel, crude will be in a bear market. WTI is trading lower for the ninth straight session, marking its longest string of consecutive losses since July 2014.
Prices sank amid fears that the oil market is oversupplied compared to demand and have fallen steadily since the U.S. government eased sanctions on Iranian oil in October. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told FOX News that the easing of sanctions is temporary.
“We've already reduced Iranian crude oil experts by over a million barrels per day. That number will fall farther,” Pompeo said. “There's a handful of places were countries that have -- that have already made significant reductions in their crude oil exports need a little bit more time to get to zero, and we're going to provide that to them.”
The U.S. Energy Information Administration said U.S. oil production will be higher this year and in 2019 than previously forecasted. The agency said U.S. crude oil production will average 10.9 million barrels per day in 2018 and rise to an average of 12.1 million barrels per day in 2019.
Brent crude prices fell 1% to $71.36 in midday trading.