Oil traders are preparing for crude prices to fall further in the coming months, but few expect Goldman Sachs' worst-case scenario of a drop to $20 a barrel to happen any time soon. 

The options market indicates investors are braced for US crude prices to drop to around $35 in the first half of 2016, but most do not expect a steeper plunge in that period. 

US crude futures fell below $37 a barrel for the first time since early 2009 today after OPEC's most recent policy meeting resulted in acrimony and no decision to cut output. 

Benchmark oil contract Brent North Sea crude also dropped under $40 a barrel today for the first time in almost seven years amid a general collapse in commodity prices. 

Brent North Sea crude for delivery in January slid as low as $39.81 a barrel - the lowest point since February 2009 - on a global oil supply glut, weak demand growth and a strong dollar.

Investment bank Goldman Sachs, an influential voice in oil trading, has said prices could drop as low as $20 a barrel at some point, hit by a growing global crude glut and sluggish demand. 
 

Crude oil futures have not traded around that level for any length of time since the late 1990s and the options market suggests few believe prices will return there next year. 

Investors have snapped up more protection against a drop to, or below $35 a barrel in the first half of next year, than for any other price level, holdings of US crude options contracts show. 

Benchmark Brent and WTI futures both fell more than 6% yesterday to reach 2015 lows.

Analysts said that OPEC has lost control of the oil market and unless something fundamental changes that causes demand to overtake the oversupply in the market, the path of least resistance is the 2008 lows of $35-$38.