Crude oil broke below $40 per barrel Wednesday afternoon, hitting the lowest level since August as the dollar remains strong and economic growth appears to be weak.
Crude found its lows shortly after the 2 p.m. EST release of the Federal Reserve's "Beige Book." This summarizing report stated that "economic activity increased at a modest pace in most regions of the country" in October and November. Disappointing economic data should tend to be bearish for oil, as it translates into decreased demand.
Meanwhile, the dollar index hit a 12-year high Wednesday, on the back of a speech from Fed Chair Janet Yellen that continued to increase the perceived chance of a December rate hike. A strong greenback should tend to put oil under pressure.
At this point, many market participants foresee continued pressure on oil prices.
"I anticipate a quick push down to $38 over the next few sessions due to building inventories, slowing demand and OPEC inability to cut production," RJO Futures strategist Phillip Streible wrote to CNBC, referring to the Friday meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.
Pointing to the increases seen in oil inventories despite record demand, Stephen Schork of The Schork Report said that the "market is still favoring bears at this point."
U.S. crude oil inventories remain at record-high levels and rose by 1.2 million barrels in the week ended Nov. 27, according to an EIA report released Wednesday.
Thanks to strong supply, Schork told CNBC in a phone interview that he sees oil going into the "mid-$30s, and perhaps revisiting the 2009 lows of $32, $33" per barrel.
Some, like Todd Gordon of TradingAnalysis.com, are even more bearish. Gordon is sticking to a previous call for crude oil to fall to $26.
"Crude oil is getting hit on a stronger dollar. Now as the reality of higher interest rates is setting in for stock investors, the demand is starting to weigh on crude oil from the other side. ... I think the downside is in track here for some time," Gordon said Wednesday on CNBC's "Trading Nation."
On the other hand, Boris Schlossberg of BK Asset Management believes oil could stage a temporary turnaround. The OPEC meeting, along with traders covering short positions, may end up driving a short-term bounce in oil prices, he said.
"I actually think we might see a little bit of a pause here," Schlossberg said on "Trading Nation." "In the long term, oil is definitely headed to the $20s. But I think we're going to have some kind of a short squeeze coming up very soon and I wouldn't want to be short just now."