Oil just slipped below $80 — and it’s expected to fall further

Plunging oil prices don't threaten Ottawa's propose tax cuts -- yet.
Global economic growth concerns are leading to a sharp pullback in oil prices. One plus is cheap gas, but broader economic concerns for Canada loom the longer the slide persists. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Hasan Jamali

Oil prices were plummeting again on Monday, slipping below US$80 dollars per barrel as worries mount about too much oil finding too few buyers over the next several months or longer.

Monday’s sell-off was triggered by fresh estimates from a big Wall Street bank suggesting oil prices will continue their free fall into winter, landing eventually in the mid-$70 range through the first half of next year.

Wall Street heavyweight Goldman Sachs cut its price estimate on WTI, or Western Texas Intermediate oil, to $75/barrel from $90 through mid-2015 on Monday while making a similarly downbeat revision to its expectations for Brent crude.

A drop of that magnitude will have a direct impact on Canadian energy producers who are deciding now whether to trim production output, experts say. The new forecast sent a fresh scare through investors Monday with shares dropping in Canadian energy companies such as Suncor.

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Goldman believes overproduction of shale gas in North America alongside other factors has created a global supply glut that won’t be worked off for some time – especially as several larger economies exhibit signs of slowing down, such as Germany and China.

Good for consumers?

Oil has tumbled 25 per cent since it summer highs in June. The steep decline is benefiting consumers in the short-term, in no small way because of falling prices at the gas pump.

Current gas prices are expected to put hundreds of additional dollars in consumers’ pockets, according to experts.

MORE: Oil’s crash threatens to derail Alberta’s booming economy — Canada’s too

Analysts at investment firm Raymond James said late last week cheaper oil translates to about $600 in the pocket of a “typical suburbanite” household in North America.

But depressed prices will hurt in the long run – especially in Canada, the lone net exporter of oil among G7 countries, analysts said.

“Falling oil prices will help consumers but represent a net downside risk for Canada’s economy,” Moody’s Analytics economist Alexander Lowy added in a note to clients.

Alberta and Saskatchewan are “booming because of oil extraction” but Canadian energy companies have higher costs compared to oil producers elsewhere, Lowy said.

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“Prolonged weakness in oil prices will materially decrease new investment in oil exploration, potentially undercutting western Canada’s strong growth. Should that region’s engine falter, the impact will be felt well beyond Alberta,” Lowy said.

Indeed, the Bank of Canada highlighted the risk in its latest economic update last week, noting that “while lower oil prices would benefit consumers, their effect on Canada would, on balance, be negative.”

WATCH: Oil’s decline is going to have an impact on the bottom line in Alberta. Likely elsewhere, too. 

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