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Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The commentary atop the IEA's monthly oil market report a week ago was headlined "A floor under prices?" and said Brent crude "seems to" have found one around $60-per-barrel. That question mark, in retrospect, is doing lots of work.

Where it stands: Prices plummeted by several dollars per barrel in trading Tuesday, the latest sign of volatility that's carrying the day despite the OPEC+ efforts to stabilize the market.

  • Brent crude fell to roughly $56-per-barrel, while WTI, the U.S. benchmark, dropped sharply into the $46-per-barrel range.
  • But they're more or less holding steady on Wednesday morning, trading around $56.58 for Brent and $46.85 for WTI.

Why it matters: The falling prices create challenges for petro-states and could hinder the U.S. shale patch if the doldrums remain.

  • Here's Bloomberg: "The plunge in U.S. oil prices has wells in some parts of the Permian Basin below break-even levels, threatening to put the brakes on the record flow from the prolific field."

The big picture: Concerns about a slowdown in economic growth and trade battles eating into demand, the robust amount of crude sloshing around, and broader market woes are all creating downward pressure on prices.

  • Brent has come down from $86 in early October, its highest level in 4 years, while WTI has come down by around $29 since then.

What they're saying: “The market is experiencing price carnage, maximum pain and considerable downside pressure,” Robin Bieber of the brokerage PVM oil tells Reuters.

  • "Enveloping supply concerns is the increasing likelihood of a protracted economic downturn in China that continues to stoke fears of demand slowdown," Stephen Innes of the trading platform Oanda said in a note quoted by MarketWatch.

What's next: Late this morning the Energy Information Administration will release its closely watched weekly data on U.S. oil storage levels.

Go deeper: Oil prices volatile after OPEC-Russia deal

Go deeper

33 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Trump revokes ethics order barring former aides from lobbying

Photo: Spencer Platt via Getty

Shortly after pardoning members of Congress and lobbyists convicted on corruption charges, President Trump revoked an executive order barring former officials from lobbying for five years after leaving his administration.

Why it matters: The order, which was signed eight days after he took office, was an attempt to fulfill his campaign promise to “drain the swamp.”

  • But with less than 12 hours left in office, Trump has now removed those limitations on his own aides.

Trump pardons former fundraiser Elliott Broidy

President Trump has pardoned Elliott Broidy, a former top Republican fundraiser who pleaded guilty late last year to conspiring to violate foreign lobbying laws as part of a campaign to sway the administration on behalf of Chinese and Malaysian interests.

Why it matters: Broidy was a deputy finance chair for the Republican National Committee early in Trump’s presidency, and attempted to leverage his influence in the Trump administration on behalf of his clients. The president's decision to pardon Broidy represents one last favor for a prominent political ally.

Trump grants flurry of last-minute pardons

Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

President Trump issued 73 pardons and commuted the sentences of 70 individuals, hours from leaving office early Wednesday, hours from leaving office.

Why it matters: It's a last-minute gift to some of the president's loyalists and an evident use of executive power with only hours left of his presidency. Axios reported in December that Trump planned to grant pardons to "every person who ever talked to me."