After a sharp drop this month, crude oil was up almost 2 percent on Friday, closing at $97.35 per barrel.
Oil traders worried that fighting between Ukraine and Russia, one of the world’s largest oil producers, may affect supplies.
But are these worries overblown?
“The conflict in Ukraine doesn’t physically threaten any oil supply,” said Pavel Molchanov, energy analyst at Raymond James. “The risk is if sanctions against Russia which have already been imposed get intensified, tightened to perhaps go all the way to an oil embargo like the one against Iran. That’s very hard to imagine.”
Molchanov notes that Russia produces about 10 million barrels of oil every day, just a little less than Saudi Arabia and the United States.
“It would be an absolutely extraordinary act for either the United States or the European Union to physically ban Russia from exporting barrels,” Molchanov said. “Frankly, that’s not even all that realistic considering how much Russian oil goes to places like China and other Asian countries. But that is the fear. Again, there is no physical disruption to oil supply based on fighting in eastern Ukraine.”
Richard Ross, global technical strategist at Auerbach Grayson, is also not worried that the recent flare-up will mean a hike in oil prices, at least in the short term.
“Don’t let geopolitics get in the way of a very nice technical setup,” said Ross, a “Talking Numbers” contributor. “The price action is bad and prices are going lower.”
Ross sees a head-and-shoulders top technical formation in the WTI crude oil chart from May to July. That is considered a bearish pattern. Oil broke below the head-and-shoulders’ neckline, near its 200-day moving average, at the end of July. Since then, it formed a bearish flag pattern. “All of that should take us down to those lows that we saw earlier this year around $91 - $92,” he said.
However, it’s the crude oil’s long-term chart that Ross is focusing on, particularly its 200-week moving average. That average is currently around $96.10 per barrel.
“I could be the only one that looks at it, but it sure seems to work here in WTI,” said Ross of the moving average. “Over the last three years, we’ve tested it on three occasions. In fact, we’ve breached it on three occasions, each time proved to be a nice buying opportunity, albeit with a little bit more weakness. I think history repeats here. ”
So, while Ross sees the price of oil dropping a little bit in the near-term, he thinks it will eventually hold its 200-week moving average again.
“I think we’ve got a few dollars lower here – probably about $4 - $5 down – and then we have a little recovery back to that 200-week moving average,” Ross said. “Once again, short term, there’s more pain here in WTI. It goes much lower.”
To see the full discussion on crude oil with Molchanov on the fundamentals and Ross on the technicals, watch the above video.