Oil Takes A Dive: Great For U.S. Consumers, Terrible For Russia And Venezuela

For Americans, cheap oil means less money spent each time you fill up on gas, and more to spend on everything else. But in countries depending on oil revenues, oil's plunge is bad news.

Oil prices had been dropping precipitiously going into last Thursday's meeting of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, the oil cartel that accounts for about 60% of global oil exports.

Since hitting a high of almost $116 in June, the price of Brent Crude fell below $80 in the middle of November, its lowest level in four years.

After the organization decided to maintain its production target at 30 million barrels a day, oil prices dropped even further, with the price of Brent Crude dropping from $77.55 a barrel on Thursday to $70 on Friday. It bounced back to $73.32 today.

The price for West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude — a benchmark for oil produced in the U.S. — is even lower, around $69 per barrel.

In the U.S., this long slide in oil prices means consumers have more to spend, as less money gets sucked out of the country through gas purchases and more expensive shipped and manufactured goods.

"The general rule is that each penny decline in gasoline prices adds a little more than $1 billion to consumers' discretionary income," according to Citigroup.

The national average price of regular gas today is $2.77, compared to $3.00 a month ago and $3.27 a year ago, according to AAA. The 70-cent drop in three months has tacked on 0.7% more overall consumer spending across the country, according to Citi.

Even though production of oil in the U.S. has nearly doubled in just the last five years — helping drive a big run-up in the oil supply that has dragged down the price — the U.S. trade deficit in oil is about 1% of its gross domestic product, according to Deutsche Bank.

But for American companies that drill for oil, the drop in oil prices meant falling stock prices. ExxonMobil's stock is down 2.7% since before the Thursday meeting, while Chevron's is down 4.4%

The big drop — and likely low prices going forward — has hammered countries that are dependent on oil revenues, especially Venezuela and Russia, which have to spend more than Gulf states like Saudi Arabia to get oil out of the ground.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro

Citi estimates that Russia needs oil priced at $107 for its oil revenues to balance government spending, while Venezuela needs $161 per barrel.

Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, has a break-even oil price of $98 a barrel.

Russia' currency, the ruble, continued its long slide against the dollar. After spiking 54 roubles for every dollar, it settled at 51.65. In June, one dollar bought 33.7 roubles.

Bonds issued by Venezuela's state oil company were yielding more than 20% today, meaning that they were cheaper and investors had less faith they would get paid back. Twenty-five percent of the country's gross domestic product comes from oil and gas.

Stock in Rosneft, the massive state-controlled Russian oil company, is down over 11% since Thursday.

One outlet, however, didn't see much to worry about in the ruble's slide.

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