Crude oil prices continued to sink in early afternoon Asia trade on Wednesday as Republican nominee Donald Trump appeared on his way to a possible stunning upset in the U.S. presidential race, sparking jitters across global equities and commodities.
The result of the contest between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Mr. Trump is expected to be called possibly by afternoon Asia time.
On the New York Mercantile Exchange, light, sweet crude futures for delivery in December traded at $43.38 a barrel at 0456 GMT, down $1.60 in the Globex electronic session. January Brent crude on London’s ICE Futures exchange fell $1.45 to $44.59 a barrel. At one point of the trading session, oil prices fell to a three-month low.
The Nikkei was down 5.9% and the Hong Kong Hang Seng Index fell as much as 4%, while gold, a safe-haven asset, was up more than 4%.
“Risk aversion is the name of the game right now,” said a Singapore-based crude oil trading firm.
Many analysts say a Trump victory could see a broad selloff in energy futures as he has touted U.S. fracking as key to the country’s energy independence.
During the campaign, he put forth an “America-first energy” plan in which he has made sweeping promises to deregulate U.S. energy production. Mr. Trump has said lifting the restrictions would unlock $50 trillion in domestic oil, natural gas and coal energy.
At a speech to energy executives in September, the Republican contender promised to end “all unnecessary regulations, and a temporary moratorium on new regulations not compelled by Congress or public safety.”
The U.S. has become a major energy powerhouse over the last decade, with new drilling technologies such as hydraulic fracturing unlocking previously untapped shale oil and natural gas production. Resurgent domestic oil production has undercut the clout once enjoyed by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries group, whose failure to stabilize the market has fueled a major plunge in oil prices over the last two years.
In addition to boosting domestic oil and gas output, Mr. Trump has pledged to end a “war on coal” and restore jobs to states where coal mining was once a dominant industry.
On the other hand, some say that if Mrs. Clinton wins, it would set off an initial celebration rally of 2% to 3% in global oil prices because her presidency would represent a continuation of existing U.S. foreign and trade polices, with fewer surprises.
However, the buying spree would likely be short-lived, given Mrs. Clinton’s vocal support for renewable energy.
“In the long run, a Clinton presidency could actually accelerate the takeover of crude oil by clean energy such as solar and others,” said Nelson Wang, a CLSA energy analyst.
Oil prices are also being weighed down by the prospect that the world’s crude supply is ballooning, as the proposed OPEC production cut deal is far from certain.
In late September, OPEC members reached a tentative pact to limit the group’s output to between 32.5 million and 33 million barrels a day. The pact is scheduled to be ratified on Nov. 30 at OPEC’s next meeting in Vienna.
But since then, OPEC members have ramped up production to record levels beyond 33.5 million barrels a day, said S&P Global Platts.
Russia, the world’s largest energy producer and a non-OPEC player, has added about 500,000 barrels a day of output in the last two months, according to investment bank Simmons & Co. Intl. So far, it isn’t clear whether Russia would join OPEC’s production cut.
The rise in global crude production has been pummeling U.S. oil prices, which are down more than 14% in less than three weeks.
Adding to jitters is the continuous growth in U.S. domestic crude stockpiles. According to data from the American Petroleum Institute, U.S. crude stocks grew by 4.4 million barrels in the week ended Nov. 4, extending the uptrend from last week’s 14.4 million-barrel expansion.
Official data by the Energy Information Administration will be released later Wednesday.
“In the near term, oil prices will still be mainly driven by rhetoric from OPEC members and the fundamentals of the world’s oil supply,” said Vyanne Lai, an analyst at National Australia Bank.
Nymex reformulated gasoline blendstock for December—the benchmark gasoline contract—fell 271 points to $1.3421 a gallon, while December diesel traded at $1.4099, 312 points lower.
ICE gasoil for November changed hands at $410.25 a metric ton, down $9.50 from Tuesday’s settlement.