At the start of 2018, Wall Street had predicted that oil prices would surpass the $100 mark in 2018 – for the first time in four years. But the opposite happened -- oil prices experienced the worst annual loss since 2015.
U.S. Brent crude ended the year after tumbling by ~25%, while international benchmark Brent crude ended the year after falling by ~20% in 2018. U.S. crude settled on Monday at $45.41 a barrel and international benchmark Brent crude stood at around $54 a barrel. The declines mark the first annual loss and the biggest yearly drop since 2015, when both contracts fell more than 30%.
So, what went wrong for oil?
First, following the Trump administration’s restored sanctions on Iran, fear of a supply shortage resulted into OPEC members and its allies led by Russia abandoning their 2016 agreement to restrict supply, adding about 1 million barrels per day between June and November.
Second, forecasts of a weaker than expected demand growth for oil resulted into broad stock market sell-off as investors dumped riskier assets. Sell-offs in some of the high-flying technology names, the ongoing U.S.-China trade dispute and rising interest rates acted as a catalyst and oil plunged about $11 a barrel from its October 3 high.
Third, snapping back of the sanctions just a day after being imposed made things worse. It meant OPEC members and its allies had already pumped in more oil into the system while demand growth was moderating and fewer Iranian barrels than expected were lost. Meanwhile, America as the world's biggest oil producer in the second half of 2018, acted as a supply catalyst and further dampened the chances of recovery.