oil price fell below $60 a barrel
Brent oil price fell below $60 a barrel for the first time since 2009 in December Reuters

Following six months of downward sliding from a summer high of $116, Brent oil prices seem to have found support at around $60 a barrel.

Despite talk from the world's top producer, Saudi Arabia, that it will not reduce production levels regardless of oil prices, it seems market concerns regarding over-supply have eased in recent days.

The price is going to bounce around the $60 level for the next couple of years, according to Tom Pugh, commodities economist at Capital Economics, who cited the rise of shale oil production in the US.

"If you go too much below 60 then shale producers start to get in real trouble. If you go much above, then shale producers will just continue to ramp up output… so this will be the new normal over the next couple of years," he said.

The dynamics of shale production mean it is easier to ramp up or wind down, compared with traditional oil production that accounts for much of the rest of oil output across the world.

"They are more likely to act as the swing producer than the Saudis trying to do it," Pugh said. "The different dynamics of shale compared to normal oil production means that this is a bit different to what we've seen previously."

Biggest winners and losers

Assuming the rout is over for now, the winners and losers are roughly divided between exporters and importers.

On the exporter side, falling oil prices have severely damaged Russia's economy. The commodity brings in around two-thirds of Russia's export revenues, which are badly needed to fund around half of the government budget.

Russia is yet to join the so-called shale revolution and relies on traditional extraction methods. (Its ability to expand production in the future has been hampered by US and EU sanctions over its role in the Ukraine crisis.)

In summary, the collapse in oil prices has pushed Russia to the brink of recession and slashed the value of its currency.

Meanwhile, the big winners are importers such as China and Japan, the world's second and third-biggest economies.

"China has been ramping up its imports, taking advantage of low prices," said Pugh. The industrialised country needs oil to sustain its impressive economic growth but it relies on imports. The falling price will provide Beijing more flexibility when it comes to setting out policy in 2015.