At the beginning of 2023, several factors are at play in determining the short and medium-term trend in oil prices this year. Supply and demand concerns, tightening monetary policy globally, expectations of a material slowdown in economic growth and possible recessions, and China’s reopening with a Covid exit wave are all impacting crude oil prices.
During the first week of the year, oil prices tumbled by 9% in the first two trading days for the worst start to a year since 1991. The price of Brent Crude dipped to below year-ago levels for the first time in two years, possibly suggesting that “broader inflation has peaked and could fall rapidly in the coming months,” Reuters columnist Jamie McGeever notes.
The annual change in the U.S. benchmark, WTI Crude, has also turned negative several times over the past two months. The base effects, that is, prices and the inflation rate compared to the same time last year, are falling and could signal deflation in energy commodities, which could intensify the drop in broader inflation to closer to the Fed’s 2% target, according to McGeever.
Still, the Fed isn’t abandoning its hawkish stance and determination to fight inflation which is “persistent” and at an “unacceptably high level,” according to the minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) from the December meeting released this week.
No participants anticipated that it would be appropriate to begin reducing the federal funds rate target in 2023. Participants generally observed that a restrictive policy stance would need to be maintained until the incoming data provided confidence that inflation was on a sustained downward path to 2 percent, which was likely to take some time,” the Fed said.
“Participants concurred that the inflation data received for October and November showed welcome reductions in the monthly pace of price increases, but they stressed that it would take substantially more evidence of progress to be confident that inflation was on a sustained downward path,” according to the FOMC minutes.