Oil prices near levels not seen since 2009

The price of a barrel of the North American oil benchmark came within a few cents of eclipsing the lowest point it ever got to during the devastating recession of 2009.

Brent drops to lower than where it was in 2009, while WTI has come close

Oil prices in North America are within just a few cents of their lowest point in more than a decade. (Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters)

The price of a barrel of the North American oil benchmark came within a few cents of eclipsing the lowest point it ever got to during the devastating recession of 2009.

West Texas Intermediate was changing hands at $34.74 US at the end of the trading day on Monday, roughly flat for the day. Earlier in the session, WTI went down as low as $34.

That's just two cents off the lowest closing price that oil hit during the financial crisis, which was $33.98 a barrel in February 2009.

Europe's standard oil blend, known as Brent, broke its recessionary low and closed  lower than it's been since July 2004, down 69 cents, or 1.9 per cent, to $36.16 a barrel.

"Really, I wouldn't like to be in the shoes of an oil exporter getting into 2016. It's not exactly looking as if there is light at the end of the tunnel any time soon," Saxo Bank senior manager Ole Hansen said.

So how low can it go?

"Pick your number," said Robert Mark, the chairman of investment policy at MacDougall, MacDougall & MacTier in Toronto. "It doesn't matter once you get past a certain level."

Oil is currently trading below what Mark calls the "marginal cost of supply" for many producers, so how much lower it can go is anyone's guess. Goldman Sachs made headlines last week for forecasting a WTI as low as $20 a barrel in 2016, but other analysts have said oil is close to troughing as we are already seeing a rebound in demand.

"It's not a magic number," Mark said, adding his firm doesn't get into the game of speculating on a floor price.

"But typically the lower the price goes, the more quick the rebound will be," he said.

The Canadian dollar was also largely unchanged, down 0.004 of a cent to $71.61. The oil-heavy TSX was also slightly basically flat, closing up 10 points to 13,004.


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