BARRELING DOWN

US crude oil fell below $40 a barrel for just the second time since the recession

It’s that time of the week when the Energy Information Administration releases its weekly peek (pdf) at US oil production. For the past year or so it’s been a dizzying climb as stockpiles climbed to record highs. Though supplies had begun to fall earlier in the year as shale producers finally pumped the brakes on their pumping, the latest figures show that commercial supplies are fewer than 2 million barrels shy of a fresh record high.

Since commodity markets abhor a glut—and are especially shaky ahead of the upcoming OPEC meeting, which is expected to do little to end the stalemate with US shale producers—things went south quickly. Nine of the 15 worst-performing stocks in the S&P 500 today were energy companies.

West Texas Intermediate crude, the US domestic oil benchmark, briefly dipped below $40 a barrel today (Dec. 2). That’s something it hadn’t done since August’s global market meltdown, when it fell to $38.60 before quickly recovering. The last time before that? June 2009.

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