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Updated 2:00 PM EDT, Wed, May 20, 2020

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Coronavirus Economy: US Oil Prices Plunge To Below Zero, 300% Crashed.

Refining Oil
(Photo : Image by John R Perry from Pixabay )

Image by John R Perry from Pixabay

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As many feared, US oil prices plunged Monday in unprecedented fashion -- dipping below zero -- as traders dumped positions ahead of Tuesday's expiry of the May contract.

West Texas Intermediate crude oil futures nosedived by 305 percent to -$36.73 a barrel for May delivery. Buyers would be compensated to take delivery at a price below zero, because there are costs related to storage and transport.

The price for a barrel of oil crumbled to negative for the first time in history, as the coronavirus crisis has kept most people from around the globe at home, forcing oil companies to pay buyers to take crude off their hands.

According to Dow Jones Market Records, the sale had WTI on course to finish at its lowest point since record keeping started in March 1983. The June contract was down at $20.43 a barrel by 18 percent.

There are mitigating factors to these never-before seen wild figures. WTI rates reflect the May contract, which is set to expire this week. The crash represents traders withdrawing from the May contract and carrying on to June.

The thinly traded May contract has shed some significance, and experts say the June contract - as of Monday, trading at $20 per barrel - is now becoming the significant figure to monitor.

The latest collapse is the lowest price for a barrel of crude since at least the early 1980s and another indication, market observers say, of very painful economic times down the road, especially for Texas' energy landscape.

Phil Flynn, senior market analyst at Price Group Futures, told FOX Business that the May contract is a "horror show" and is on track to the worst delivery scenario in history.

According to the International Energy Administration, the market for crude oil is predicted to drop by 29 million barrels a day this month, as COVID-19 has prompted countries around the world to issue "stay-at-home" orders to prevent the spread of the disease. Lower economic activity means poorer demand for crude oil, including gasoline and jet fuel, and its by-products.

The fall in oil prices on Monday was a warning that buyers are concerned there will be no space for bringing the oil in. As of April 10, according to the U.S., oil storage in the U.S. was 57 percent full.

The $30 per barrel price is "already pretty bad," and hitting the $20 or even $10 would be "a total nightmare," Artem Abramov, Rystad Energy's head of shale research, said.

According to Rystad Resources, 533 US oil exploration and production firms will file for bankruptcy by end of the year. At $10, Rystad predicts there will be more than 1,100 companies going bankrupt.

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